The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.
~Kailash Satyarthi, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his activism for children’s rights
March for Our Lives is an ongoing effort by young people to make this world a safer and kinder place. While the original march is over, the cause continues. I believe it is our duty as adults to support young people’s voices and activism by providing them a platform to make their voices heard. This is the purpose of the Hear Their Voices: Young People as Our Teachers series on this blog.
It is with great excitement that I share with you the voice of a young activist, Dani Schneider. She is an 8th grader who courageously spoke at our local March for Our Lives. Her speech reminds us that we must not remain complacent but join together in our quest for change. She eloquently points out that we must see each other, learn about one another so that we can cultivate empathy and the courage to speak up. She emphasizes the truth that our voices matter and we must use it to make change.
This speech is an act of courage. I urge you to listen and to find a way to act with the same courage.
March for Our Lives Speech
By Dani Schneider, 8th grader
My name is Dani Schneider and I’m a Rye Neck student. I have attended Rye Neck since Kindergarten when we were learning Second Step, a program to teach young children about empathy. Now, as an 8th grader, we still are taught about empathy. Because empathy is something that everyone, no matter what age, needs to understand. In English this year, we read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a talented writer in my opinion. Throughout the story, Atticus, the father, teaches his children lessons, as most of you parents do. Two recurring themes in this book are empathy and courage. And I’m finally beginning to understand how someone can write an entire book revolving around two little words. As Atticus says, “You never really understand how a person until you climb into their skin and walk around in it.”
Just for a moment, we all need to put ourselves in the shoes of others. As many of you are parents, imagine yourself a teacher at Parkland or Sandy Hook. Imagine you’re a parent sending your kids there everyday. If you’re a student, imagine going there everyday. Imagine knowing people who go there. What would you do now? Now that this is happening to you? Would you get more involved? Well, that’s how we all need to think. The difference between Parkland and Sandy Hook is that people are getting involved. Students are getting involved and we are making our voices heard. On March 14th, six other middle school students and I walked out. It created the impact we wanted. Now, we are standing here making our opinions known to all of you.
At school, we are starting up a club called SENS – Students Examine National Safety. We feel that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard and we are here to listen. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, old or young, no matter what you believe in, we all agree something needs to change. Common sense gun laws are necessary unless we want to hear more stories like Parkand. More shootings have happened since Parkland, and none have had the same impact and were hardly publicized. We need change. So why am I here talking to you? What can I do? What can you do?.
Well, we can do one or more of the following things, but some people don’t understand how much influence they have. Our student group hopes to research marches, speeches, shootings, government statements and more to spread the word. To educate the student population on current events and allow them to speak their mind. By arranging assemblies in school and bringing organizations and speakers we hope to be able to slowly eradicate school shootings and violence. I leave you with this. We must understand that every single person’s voice matters. If everyone thought “Nobody cares what I have to say” nobody would be here now. No marches organized or speakers making their voices heard. We can all do so much! Whether it’s speaking in front of a crowd, attending a march, writing to administration to get schools more involved, writing to government officials or even the president if you want! Get involved with organizations or clubs. Your voice will make a change. If anyone has any questions, I can answer them now and if for some reason you have a private question feel free to email me. Thank you all!
NOTE: This series, Hear Their Voices: Young People as Our Teachers, features writings by people ages 5-18 who want to inspire our society to become more compassionate, more understanding, more focused on peace and justice. Please reach out to me if you know of a young person whose voice could be featured on this blog.