Dear teenagers upset about schools being places of violence: we hear you. America hears you. And we thank you.
Speak up, and speak loudly. Don’t give in to other voices telling you you’re too young to have an opinion — that you don’t have enough “life experiences” to have a say. They are wrong, and they are foolish to suggest as much.
Your opinions may change as you grow older. That’s allowed. But how you feel today, and to express yourselves (even in outrage) is allowed too. Your opinions matter, and your voices deserve to be heard, in Washington or in your community.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a student who has witnessed a school shooting yourself or not: if you have a belief, defend it. Educate yourself, research that belief, and argue about it until you’re blue in the face if you want to. And remember: those who tell you to shut up are either unable to argue against you, or too lazy to formulate their own thoughts. Don’t be like them.
I’m nearly 34-years-old. But I was young once, too. In 2003, my high school had a walkout in opposition of the War in Iraq. Not all of my peers agreed with me, and a counter-walkout was also staged. It was hard arguing with my fellow students — but it was more difficult being dismissed by older individuals.
Some of our teachers scoffed at us. Some of our parents scolded us. And some in the news portrayed us as ignorant. But you know what? All of them were wrong.
If you have a belief in something, you are free to engage society to promote that belief. That’s a right you have, whether you’re an adult or a child.
It will be difficult, in the days ahead, for you to weather the onslaught of criticism from members of older generations. But don’t give in: you deserve to have an education, and you deserve to be safe while you pursue it.
Fight like hell. And never, ever allow anyone to tell you that you can’t, or shouldn’t, defend your ideals.