UPDATED: March 15, 2018 at 7:30 a.m.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.—the site of a shooting last month that killed 17 people—will discuss gun reform and student activism at an Institute of Politics panel on March 20.
The panel, entitled “#NEVERAGAIN: How Parkland Students are Changing the Conversation on Guns,” will feature many of the survivors of the shooting who have gained national attention for their efforts to enact gun reform across the country. Emma González, the 18-year-old high school senior who has quickly become the face of this movement, will attend, along with fellow student activists Matthew Deitsch, Ryan Deitsch, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, and Alex Wind.
Dustin Chiang ’19, president of the IOP Student Advisory Committee, wrote in an email that the IOP was eager to host the students.
“These students have rapidly organized a nationwide movement and are currently at the center of our country's political discourse,” Chiang wrote. “We are eager to hear their insight on how young people can make a difference on issues they believe in.”
Meighan Stone, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy program, will moderate the event.
"From Malala's starting her activism in Pakistan at age 11 to Rep. John Lewis sneaking out from chores to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak when he was 14, young people have long led powerful movements,” Stone wrote in an email. “The Parkland students have refused to be silent victims, instead realizing they need no one's permission to be a prophetic voice for change and an end to gun violence in America.”
Matthew Deitsch, the oldest member of the Never Again Movement at 20 years old, said the students will talk about more than just gun control at the event. A 2016 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the older brother of students who survived the shooting, Deitsch said by coming to Harvard he hopes to make the pressing nature of this issue clear.
“By going to Harvard, we’re going to be speaking directly to the future leaders of America, and we’re going to tell everyone what we’ve been telling everyone. We don’t care if it says Senator ‘insert senator’s name here’ or Representative or President whoever,” Deitsch said. “Titles of power and money mean absolutely nothing to me when we’re talking about innocent lives.”
Deitsch also stressed the importance of “better” and more informed leaders to find solutions to the gun issue in America.
“We don’t need leaders who are lifelong politicians and have been a part of this system,” Deitsch said. “We need leaders who are actually going to make the right choices and actually do the things that we need as a society to be more safe and to stop this senseless violence that we have in this country.”
Deitsch said the Parkland shooting was an traumatic experience for everyone in his community, detailing how his brother and sister had to hide in closets for hours during the shooting in fear of the gunman.
He said, however, they are still united in their desire to fix a “failed system.”
“[If] we can be this broken up about everyone and be so personally affected and still have the wit to combat the hatred and just the lies that come from the other side in order to justify their stances continuing this bloodshed, then anyone can.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: March 15, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Meighan Stone is a senior fellow at the Kennedy School's Women and Foreign Policy program. In fact, she is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations' Women and Foreign Policy program.
—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.
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