Editor’s Note: This is the first guest blog for Spokesman. It is about the brilliant work of the teenagers from Stoneman Douglas High School. It was written by Jeff DeMarrais, a former colleague and a fellow member of the Arthur W. Page Society. It first appeared on the Page website.
By Jeff DeMarrais
Yesterday, I met my heroes. For those of you who have known me throughout my life and career, it might surprise you that it took 47 years to say that.
I’ve been privileged enough to meet Hollywood celebrities, work alongside corporate titans, meet and learn from three Nobel Prize winners and reach fanboy status with my favorite pro athletes.
But until yesterday, I didn’t realize I’d missed the real heroes; and the impact of their words are indelibly imprinted on my consciousness and soul.
Yesterday I met Delaney Tarr, Sofie Whitney, Casey Sherman, Sari Kaufman and Brendan Duff, a handful of teenagers who, I hope, will change the world.
These five leaders are among the voices who rose up in the aftermath of the Parkland, FL, shootings on Valentine’s Day, 2018. They are or were students at Stoneman Douglas High School.
And today, of all days, they deserve to be heard.
This group of teenagers, given all they have gone through – the initial act of violence, the threats upon their lives for speaking out, the disruption of the “normal” American high school experience, the simple act of having to grow up in the harsh spotlight of instant fame – had a single message.
They shied away from rhetoric, cynicism, vitriol, partisan attacks or even the quintessential teen reaction to most any topic, “Do I have to do this NOW?” and wanted a room full of adults to help them carry a simple message forward. Since today is National Voter Registration Day there is no better time to share their message.
In a world where they have absolutely every right to feel outraged, hopeless, denied their final years of their childhood, this group and others in the March For Our Lives movement have made an extremely mature choice. And it is a choice that does not exempt them from feeling, after watching their classmates and friends gunned down in cold blood, all the emotions to which they they are entitled.
Today’s politically charged environment – both online and in the real world – does not lend a positive, credible platform to anyone interested in advancing the argument to “take away” American citizens rights (or, in other words, questioning the constitutionality of the Second Amendment). That battle has been argued among U.S. citizens and legislators for decades with no real progress made.
But Delaney, Sofie, Casey, Sari, Brendan and many of their other colleagues have sparked a movement to empower Americans to use one of our most sacred, yet underused, rights. They want you to vote.
Register now. Be heard. Take part in the conversation. Abandon the echo chamber of online rage and talk to real humans who should represent your interests at the local, state and federal levels.
Is this a politically charged wish? Shouldn’t every 18+ year old U.S. citizen freely flex this right to support our democracy? How can there possibly be resistance to this idea?
Since the drafting of the United States Constitution, our government has had to pass five(!) Amendments to enfranchise all of our adult citizens with the right to have their voices heard at the voting booth (those are Amendments XV, XVII, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXVI for our political science fans).
For the last 148 years, we have been refining the guidelines that permit voting in U.S. elections. So why is it so hard? And why do these five Parkland residents face such agitated assault against their simple message, “go vote”?
Delving just one layer below that question can lead to a politicized morass which, frankly, I could debate with gusto but will add very little value to the discourse and not achieve the goal which these survivors have set before us. So many people are engaging in social media – Twitter in particular – to vent, opine and muddy the waters of a really simple act of patriotism.
I’m going to go home today and see my kids and share your stories and wisdom with them. Those are two people to whom I can explain how – as neighbors of Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT – we can do something that matters, something that extends beyond rhetoric, slogans and clever posters and t-shirts.
Today, I’m going to explain to my teenage boys why voting matters. They’re a few years away from being able to do so, but I want them to vote as badly as they want to have a car or go to college.
Sofie, Casey, Sari, Brendan, Delaney: You guys are my heroes.
And I’m going to tell my sons all about you too.
Thank you for what you’re doing for this country, and you may always feel empowered to use your voices to drive positive change.
Register to vote. Here’s the national campaign to register. Share this, shout it from the rooftops, whisper it to your friends. By any means, make this a necessary stop in your network’s day today:
Activate your vote on National Voter Registration Day