I watched one by one as more than two dozen students and parents of victims of the school shooting took the stage at the MarchForOurLives rally in Parkland, Florida, on Saturday, March 24, and gave their speeches. I listened. I cheered. I cried. I felt inspired.
The students are 14, 15, 16 and 17 years olds, and all of them spoke from the heart. They are angry. They are sad. They are motivated. They talked about their dead friends. They talked about their dead coach. They talked about their experiences getting shot and surviving. They talked about meeting with lawmakers. They talked about how they won’t let the 17 victims of their school shooting die in vain. And they talked about how they can’t wait to vote in elections.
Each student or parent who spoke and told his or her story ended the speech with, “This is why I march!” Clearly, it was a touch that said these marchers have purpose. If anyone had doubt about the power of young people to change the world, it wasn’t evident in Parkland on Saturday.
Daniel Tabares, only 14-years-old, took the stage, spoke with a slight lisp, and told the crowd he was shy and a loner. He told us he no longer feels that way because he has passion and a cause. He told us he wants change. He said he wants to feel safe in his school again. He wants to fight to make a difference — and will do so for long as it takes.
Casey Sherman, the 17-year-old lead organizer of the Parkland event, looked right at the bleachers behind the stage at her Marjory Stoneman Douglas peers and said, “Our voices do matter. Enough is enough.”
She then turned to the crowd and said, “This is not a moment. It’s a movement.” In front of me, a sea of toddlers and teens and parents and grandparents stood cheering for Casey. Behind me a crowd of people grew so large I couldn’t see the end.
And off to the side was a well thought out symbol of what will make change happen: a voter registration table.
When MSD student Adam Buckwald said, “The finish line of the march today is the starting line for our movement,” I believe him. When he said he and his fellow students in Parkland have started a flame that cannot be extinguished, I believe him. When I saw the students holding the MarchForOurLives banner and leading the march through the streets of Parkland shouting “enough is enough” with the adults following behind them, I know that change is coming.
In D.C., my daughter marched with a group of other future school teachers in hope that they can feel safe in their future classrooms and their students will only need to concern themselves with learning.
As a mother of three teenagers, I feel proud of what I saw in Parkland and what I saw when I watched televised replays of MarchForOurLives led by students around the country. As an mother of teenagers, I feel awed by the next generation. As a mother of teenagers, I want to support these determined young people who are our country’s future voters, lawmakers and political leaders. I will make them the promise they asked me to make. I will get informed and support ONLY those lawmakers who support the laws that make our schools safer than they are now.
Tony Montalto , father of Gina Montalto, one of the 17 Parkland school shooting victims, took the stage, looked around, and told the students before him, the battle for change is a marathon, not a sprint. But because of all of you, we are seeing steps in the right direction, he said. Then, he brought me to tears… he told the huge crowd before him that he had been convinced his talented, happy 14-year-old daughter would do great things and change the world. “In a way, with the help of this movement, I guess she still will,” he said.