On Wednesday, March 14th, the majority of the Thomas Jefferson student body walked out to honor the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
It is not often that students and young adults have much of a platform from which to speak, and historically this age group has almost never been capable of rallying behind a single message or cause. This time, it was different.
The sheer magnitude of an event like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida, left the entire nation reeling in shock. Regardless of political orientation or beliefs, the students who faced this momentous adversity in their lives and chose to champion their opinions instead of dwelling on grievances deserve every ounce of respect that they receive. By choosing to use the inherent, inalienable power that they possess – their voice – they validated the foundation of student opinion unlike any single event in the last decade. In doing so, they forced these issues into the national spotlight at a time when our political elite would choose to avoid these critically important conversations that need to occur. Come what may, the actions of these kids gave a platform for youth across the nation to be heard from, even if their ideologies do not align, warranting acknowledgement for years to come.
In honor of those lost, and in solidarity with those that now bear the weight of this experience, the majority of the Thomas Jefferson student population walked out on March 14th. In accordance with schools across the country, seventeen minutes of silence were observed to pay tribute to the seventeen lives lost in the tragedy. After school, students were given a chance to voice their personal opinions in the auditorium, as well as write postcards to their senators, register to vote online, and donate to charities that seek to end catastrophes similar to these.
Ultimately, this day was not meant to spark conflict, rather it was a catalyst to have the necessary discussions to address the problems that affect everyone influenced by the American School System. One of the organizers of the event, junior Joe McComb, felt that the event greatly helped students air many of their concerns and worries, saying, “Usually we are told to just put our trust in our political system, but we took this opportunity to express our frustrations. We are tired of being told to be quiet and want our voices to be heard.”
Not only students were involved with the walk out; many teachers and faculty members accompanied the students at the front of the school. An administrator in attendance, Paula Hammel, said, “It was very well organized. I think we were all very impressed with the collaboration between clubs and how the students came together during the seventeen minutes of silence.” She understands what an event like this means for students, going on to say, “I think it gives students a place to have a voice. It can be cathartic. Oftentimes an event like this happens, something that we can all relate to being in schools, and this is an outlet that lets us express these emotions in a way that is appropriate.” This event will no doubt weigh heavily on the minds of Americans for years to come, but rather than sitting back and letting progress on these issues come to a halt, the students of Thomas Jefferson are committed to using their voices to make a change.