I stand with the Parkland students.
20 years ago I was a high school student in Florida. This issue for us was the rising smoking rates of youth who were being targeted by manipulative marketing tactics from Big Tobacco. Three years later, the Truth Campaign reported that smoking rates amongst middle school students was down 50%. Today, smoking rates are down 90% from where they were then. It took rallies in Tallahassee and throughout the state. It took media outreach, grassroots campaigns, and, yes, plenty of faxes to legislators to fund the campaign that needed funding.
Before the Truth Campaign, the tobacco issue wasn’t being addressed. It seemed a part of our culture, too complicated and too politically hard to address. It took a bunch of persistent and aggressive teenagers that looked past these challenges to have the state and nation believe that there was a better way. It also took dedicated adults to foster the development of the emerging youth leaders in the movement. For me, it was Mrs. Nancy Birchall. Her coaching and encouragement developed my leadership skills that put me on a different life and career trajectory.
Now, as an adult, I understand the politics involved and the complexity of the issues at hand. However, the students only care about being safe in school. And, they are completely, 100% right. Their voices have inspired a generation, including my middle-school son.
I could not be more proud to see these students igniting a movement. Again, one that started in Florida and has spread across the nation. Today, it is clear that their courage to speak out has given a voice to thousands, if not millions, of American’s who now clearly see that the priority is keeping our kids safe. As adults, we have the opportunity to foster their development and embrace this next generation finding their voice.
That’s why I stand with the Parkland students.