The youth will set us free

If you watched the Sunrise, Florida town hall, you must understand our anger and frustration. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre took center stage at a town hall hosted by CNN. Thousands of community members cheered on the students who confronted Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Rep. Ted Deutch, and National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman Dana Loesch. We deeply respect the young people protesting. Still, we must remember that we can be politically active, we can speak up, and we can make a change at any age.

We see you. We hear you. We are you. If you are part of the youth, you are also a part of this fight. We have an obligation as students to empathize with the survivors of the massacre.

The most prominent moments of the town hall meeting were when student survivors confronted America’s public servants. The students-turned-advocates, their teachers and parents asked about whether our politicians would support the banning of certain assault-style rifles.

Sen. Rubio was elected to serve his constituents but on Wednesday, he wasn’t able to assure the survivors of the massacre that he would not accept NRA money. Students are tired of living in fear of being next, and we are exceptionally tired of politicians who kneel before the NRA.

The shooting ignited once again the national discussion on gun laws and public safety, which catalyzed a movement led by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As students, we can all connect with the frustration of having public servants who don’t hear us, however, many of us are being ignored because of our age.

We don’t want your condolences and prayers. We want change. We’ve had enough of your thoughts and prayers.

Young people have a long legacy of being socially aware. We see it in our history books: college students fought for us during the civil rights movement since the 1950’s, ignited anti-war movements that swept the country off its feet during the Vietnam War during the 1960’s and marriage equality.

It’s time for America to listen to its children, to us. But it’s also time for us to stand up to our public servants. We have the power to make American leaders take notes and act.

And so we should all listen to Emma González, a Parkland student survivor.

“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,” Gonzalez said, addressing a gun-control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Not because we’re going to be another statistic about a mass shooting in America, but because … we are going to be the last mass shooting … we are going to change the law. That’s going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook, and it’s going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members, and most of all, the students.”

It’s time for a change. It’s time for us students to continue the legacy of the students in the history textbooks we’ve read about.

Many 2nd amendment advocates are generalizing this generation entirely. Users on various social media platforms say that the youth are too young to speak out on gun violence.

The big question remains: Why are we old enough to have assault weapons, but not opinions?

For decades, the youth has been fighting for their communities and have organized and marched for their rights. Let’s not minimize how active our students have been when fighting for justice.

The youth are not willing to be quiet when it comes to issues that affect them directly. To make a change, we have to use our voices, and we can all look to the Parkland students and the long legacy of youth activism to ignite the change we yearn to see in the future. What the young people are saying is this: we are your children, and it is time for you to listen.