Bill Murray says, “The thing that’s so powerful about students is that, when you haven’t had your idealism broken, you’re able to speak from a place that has no confusion, where there is a clear set of values.”
On March 24, youth and adults will take to the streets of Washington, DC and around the country to support the March for Our Lives. They are marching to demand that their lives and safety become a priority. They are marching strong in the hopes of ending gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. Congratulations to all who are speaking out in any peaceful way they can: marching, signing petitions, speaking out for the value of human life and preparing to vote!
Looking back, there wasn't fear in the schools in the 1960’s when I was teaching school. I remember fondly my 9th grade English students, as together we so enjoyed school and felt perfectly safe! We were all very fortunate! My primary focus was to study novels that would raise curiosity and have meaning for the future of their lives. We discussed novels that would have an impact on their thinking process and discernment of values! My students were brilliant, and it was the best of times for all of us! Our class was tons of fun, and yet reached deeply into important human issues.
One of our novels for study was A Tale of Two Cities. It’s a classic! It opens with a famous quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens penned this in 1859! A classic is a book that stimulates a sense of discovery and is relevant in all times.
As my students pondered the unbelievable endless pain and suffering of the French Revolution, they also reflected on the Vietnam War. They correlated man’s inhumanity to man in the past to the present. They questioned if atrocities would ever end, and they wanted to make a difference. They asked, “What can we do to change the world today?” “What can we do to bring peace?
President Lyndon B. Johnson was in office then, and one of my students asked if our President was telling the whole truth to Americans? Although he “wanted to be the President who helped end war among the brothers of this earth”, he was being questioned. A debate followed as the class considered whether or not they could trust their government. The Vietnam War was not the first time Americans became distrustful of government, but it certainly did secure our reasons for questioning. My students were mostly trusting, but inquisitive. They were hopeful for peace! In their discussions of war, they questioned its real reasons, politics, economics, loss of human life, atrocities and what the outcome would be. They cared and they wanted to be a part of a peace movement.
There came a time when they realized that the attitude they displayed in life toward others was the first and most critical change they could make to create a peaceful world. They could make changes in public, in school and at home. Their focus on personal responsibility for their own behavior and choices would begin the change. They took all this very seriously! Each novel or short story gave them awareness of both the light and the dark side of life, and they were preparing themselves for “the world out there.” Kids are hopeful and they are willing to take action.
In the mission statement for the March for Our Lives, we read, “Every kid in this country now goes to school wondering if this day might be their last. We live in fear. It doesn’t have to be this way. Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard.”
May we each discern what is ours to do to be advocates of peace. May the actions we choose not be in vain, but rather lead to the peace that all humans deserve. May all be safe; may all be heard. I do believe that our hope rests in our inspiring and hopeful youth, supported by strong healthy adults who guide them in peaceful ways.