As part of a project about leadership in our Humanities class, we decided to research the inspiring Emma Gonzalez, a gun control activist, and the rest of the Never Again campaign founders. We picked this topic because it is extremely prevalent in 2018, as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that initiated the Never Again movement, occurred recently in February.
Emma Gonzalez and Never Again
Emma Gonzalez is nineteen year old, Cuban/American advocate who is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida. She first became globally recognized during her eleven minute speech at a rally against gun violence on February 17th, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has since been actively advocating for stricter gun laws by attending and speaking at movements like the March For Our Lives event and speaking against the NRA, like on CNN when she called out NRA representative Dana Loesch for avoiding her question. Emma, along with 8 of her fellow peers founded the Never Again (MSD) movement against gun violence after Nikolas Cruz, a student at their high school, opened fire on fellow students on February 14th, 2018.
Never Again is a completely student-organized movement that aims to create tighter regulations against gun violence all over the United States. The group stages protests and rallies demanding legislative action to be taken in order to prevent these tragedies to happen to future generations. In March 2018 they won a stunning “victory” in the Florida legislature when both of the houses voted for numerous gun control measures. The bill, called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, increased school security and changed the age at which you can buy a gun in Florida, from 18 to 21. The governor, Rick Scott, signed the bill into law on March 9th. He later commented, “To the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you made your voices heard. You didn’t let up and you fought until there was change.”
The movement has since become internationally recognized and has gained support from citizens, american and non-american, all over the world. Nevertheless, Never Again has also been accused of hypocrisy and has been under a lot of fire. In a BBC article called, Never Again: Is gun control too white? the network accuses the protesters of hypocrisy, and some ask why they didn’t turn up to the Black Lives Matter movement which was set up on 2013 to end police violence against colored people. So although the movement has received a lot of praise, it is also receiving backlash.
Above written by Shira Ashkenazi ‘21
Children have long been underrated by the immense impact they can have on provoking change. Although today, society is becoming aware that children and teenagers are not only the “leaders of tomorrow” but the leaders of today. We are the leaders of today. Around the world children are successfully provoking political and social movements about the most important issues of today. The advantages that come with being young have much to do with why these movements have proven to be so successful. The fact that children are “difficult to convincingly attack”, easier to forgive for their mistakes, and not as restrained by full-time jobs is the key to their success. Additionally, in general, young people are harder to collectively mock than various political elites, so when they are to say something controversial the public is more keen to listen. In other words when they say something, people listen and feel inspired, “In the past, there usually wasn’t a considerable response [to gun control] , and seeing the [Never Again] students take action was very inspiring.”, said Julian Thomet (19’) in response to the school walk-out he organized on March 14.
The Soweto uprising, was a series of protests by black school children advocating for the implementation of instruction in both Afrikaans and English at secondary school. This peaceful demonstration soon turned violent when the police arrived, and on June 16th 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed while in a demonstration. June 16 now represents National Youth Day. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and perhaps the most well known teenage activist, also risked her life for the cause she feels so strongly about. After taking an exam, Malala was shot in the head, and after being in critical condition for many days, she survived. Although Hector and Malala lived at different times and places, they both have provoked irreversible change. Hector represents the Soweto uprising and the other 176 students killed. A picture of his siblings carrying him after being shot brought light to the brutality of the apartheid government. Malala may not have completely changed Pakistan but has had immense global impacts as she empowers young girls and women. Emma Gonzalez and the rest of the Never Again movement leaders may not have changed gun control laws and legislations yet, but have provoked conversations between family, friends, schools, and global leaders. With that said,after the March for our Lives on March 25, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, voiced his opinion for the repealment of the second amendment which protects the right to bear arms. This shows that the conversations and coverage provoked by the March for Our Lives has the potential to affect real change. Now the seed is planted and only the future will show what this movement flourishes into.
Above written by Sydney Stroemer ‘21
The Medium is the Message
The stereotype of this disengaged, entitled, and social media-addicted generation never seems to die. Social media has always had a negative tone, using Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and more, are only for self-obsessed teenagers. It is seen as a waste of time, and fosters antisocial behavior. But, survivors of the brutal Valentine’s day shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have never ceased to surprise. Not only are these teens provoking students from all over America to demand change by organizing the March For Our Lives Event and forming the campaign Never Again ordering for gun control, they are using the tool of social media, one they know well, to their advantage.
Emma Gonzalez, a teen with a shaved head and who can never be caught without ripped jeans has become the iconic face of the movement, who currently has over 1.5 million followers on Twitter, consistently criticizes politicians such as Donald Trump for their partnerships with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Naomi Walder became an overnight sensation after announcing she represented “African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper” (The New York Times, Tara Parker Pope). David Hogg, a senior, endured countless personal attacks with a calm disposition, certainly not similar to the behaviour of a average teenager in 2018, according to the general public. The demeanor of all three of these teens without a doubt do not match the stereotype of the ordinary teenager today. On the contrary, they have grace, confidence, and equanimity; qualities that many adults in 2018 do not bear. Yes, these three teenagers could be outliers in their otherwise damaged generation, but according to the New York Times, many adolescent researchers and results of health surveys beg to differ. Risky behaviours have declined significantly. Smoking and teen pregnancy rates have hit historic lows, and the amount of teens who have used alcohol in the past month is “down by half since the 1990s” (The New York Times). Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of “How to Raise an Adult”, and a previous dean of freshman at Stanford University, says, “I think we must contemplate that technology is having the exact opposite effect than we perceived. We see the negatives of not going outside, can’t look people in the eye, don’t have to go through the effort of making a phone call. There are ways we see the deficiencies that social media has offered, but there are obviously tremendous upsides and positives as well.” Living in 2018, we have seen the worst on social media, but in past months we have also seen that these platforms have amplified debates on gun control, in light of the situation in Parkland. Twitter, for example, has verified numerous accounts of members of Never Again, such as the accounts of Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, and of course, Emma Gonzalez. Through social media, these teens and many more have caught the eye of various celebrities, who have only applauded them for their actions.
According to NBC News, the conversation after mass shootings follow similar patterns; anger, sadness, grief, demands for gun control, and then impending silence until the next one. But, according to social media experts, it will be different this time. Now more than ever, debates, conversations, and discussions are eminent on social media platforms, such as twitter. Because of social media, the Never Again campaign is gaining momentum. According to Nate Silver, editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, the number of google searches for the term “gun control” has heavily increased. Like he says, “The students speaking out makes a pretty big difference”. It is unquestionable, that to the leaders not just of tomorrow, but of today, social media is an integral tool, one that should not succumb to the negative stereotype it has been given by society. As Jeremy Littau, an associate professor of journalism at Lehigh University said, “And people will remember that ‘when the time came, they [this generation] didn’t sulk on their iPhones — they’re using them to create change.’” (NBC News)
Above written by Ishika Gupta ‘21
Julian Thomet, a high school junior, organized the “walk out” on March 14th, commemorating the 17 students who had been shot on February 14, at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. This “walk out” took place all over american schools, but Julian brought it to our school, in Zurich. We asked him a series of questions about the walk out. Here is how he responded.
Question: What motivated or inspired you to start the walk out at our school?
Julian: I was inspired by the actions of other students in the US, who responded to a shooting at their school by launching a sustained call for gun control. In the past, there usually wasn’t a considerable response, and seeing these students take action was very inspiring.
Q: Were you satisfied with how the walk out turned out?
J: I am very satisfied with how the walkout turned out. I didn’t expect there to be as many people as there were, and we had actually planned an activity for a smaller group if very few people showed up. I was surprised, touched, and encouraged to see the concern that students had for this issue.
Q: Why do you believe it is important for us as students to be aware of this issue?
J: It’s important for students to care about this issue because millions of students have to go to school with the fear of being shot. Even though this doesn’t sound like something that can be real in a country like the USA, it is happening, and it’s something that needs attention. In a broader view, many of us are Americans or have friends and family in America, and their lives are in more danger because of the lack of restrictive gun policies in the US.
There is also a display of many of the posters made during the March for Ours Lives, which can be found at the front entrance!
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