In 1999, almost 20 years ago, at Columbine high school in Colorado, two students from the school walked through the doors and began the murder of 12 of their classmates, injuring 21 others.
In 2011 another boy strode purposely into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 little children and seven adults. Then, a little more than a month ago, an expelled student allegedly walked into the Parkland Florida high school, turned down the hall and set off the fire alarm before killing 17 former fellow students. And those are just the most publicized examples of many such events in U.S. schools in recent years.
After each terrible event our politicians did little or nothing more than mouth the usual platitudes. And until the Parkland school killings, I had little hope that public reaction to the massacre of teenagers and little children in our schools would result in any lasting changes. But now it seems that young Americans have taken over the charge and made it their own.
Children and teenagers from across America and around the world are now burning with the white hot flame of courage and purpose, crying out:”Enough!”, and demanding change.
They rallied in numbers a half million strong in Washington D.C., to protest the killing of their classmates and others – as students in 800 additional U.S. cities did the same. They named their movement The March For Our Lives and I shall never forget those simple yet poignant and compelling words.
I was also moved by their simple message which was and is: We are young Americans. The future. Keep us safe. And I was impressed by the civility that characterized both the words and deeds of these young Americans, something rarely seen in public life anymore.
Watching these young people commit themselves to address what has happened in America’s schools brought tears to my eyes, and hope to this father, grandfather, former school board member and legislator.
It is often said that “Youth is wasted on the young.” And while there may still be some truth in that old aphorism, in today’s America those words, with their hint of smug humor, are fast losing credence and for very good reason.