March For Our Lives – Wichita

Saturday morning I attended the March For Our Lives event in Wichita. Several weeks before, I had been asked by the students organizing the event if I’d be willing to take a place among the other speakers for the day.

I gladly accepted, knowing full well that it would have been politically safer to decline the offer, stay home, and avoid a conversation that is steeped in rhetoric, emotion and deep division.

I attended Saturday’s March because I believe we must have an uncomfortable conversation if we’re going to make school shootings as rare as they should be. And because I am glad to encourage and support the active engagement of the next generation in the political process. I’m honored that they asked me to join them, and that I had the chance to see firsthand the energy and excitement of students who believe in a shared purpose toward crafting their own future.

A few people have asked for the transcript of what I said Saturday, so I’ve included it below. There’s a good chance I moved slightly off script when I delivered it. If you’d rather watch the video of it, go here.

Thank you all for being here today.

It’s so inspiring to see so many people who have come together to give voice to an issue that is crying out for attention, for immediate and sustained action, and for something that looks like resolution.

But the truth is we shouldn’t have to be here today. The reason we’re all here should’ve been addressed in 1999, or 2005, 2007, 2012 and every year in between and every year since. There have been more than 300 school shootings since 2013, and in all those years, and after every child’s death, we’ve collectively done little more than shrug our shoulders and shake our heads. And we’ve accepted the idea that this is a way of life, that there’s nothing we could’ve done. That this is simply the reality of the world in which we live.

Each one of these events should’ve been enough for us to take action. Each one should have been enough for one generation to fulfill its duty to the next by saying we will not accept this as normal. But that didn’t happen. Instead, if there was talk of a problem at all, the conversation split along entrenched positions – and any talk of a solution fell away to defense of the status quo.

But not today. On this day, there’s a movement led by a generation of students who have been raised in a world governed by corrosive fear and crippling inaction. A world in which it is absurdly normal and obscenely accepted that on any given day dozens of students might die a violent death at their neighborhood schools.

Today you stand in the narrow space between yesterday and tomorrow. It won’t be very many years before those of you soon graduating from these schools will be sending your own children back into them.

And you have a choice to make. Will you likewise say that nothing can be done? That this, sadly, is the state of the world, and simply hope and pray for the best? Or will you say that enough is enough, and take action to create a better world for those who follow you?

Change never happens on accident. It is only with sustained effort that the world moves where we wish it. And change never happens without resistance. You will be told nothing can be done. You will be told that this fight is too big. You will be told you are wrong. You will be told that your vision is misguided. You will be told that your voice has no place in this debate.

But it does.

The world has never, not once, changed itself, without the effort and energy of an idealistic youth who refused to accept that the world they’ve been handed is the only world that can exist. And if you continue the work you’ve started to day, you will change the world.

9 Comments

  • Posted March 25, 2018
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    Aubrey Watts

    Thanks Jason! Me and and my husband took our kids over to Wichita from Hutchinson to participate in this march. I was proud to see Hutch represented so well. Thanks for your inspiring words Saturday.

  • Posted March 26, 2018
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    Janet Hamilton

    Bravo!!

  • Posted March 26, 2018
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    Marilyn Bolton

    Thoughtful, encouraging, inspiring word for those kids to hear!

  • Posted March 26, 2018
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    Richard Kramer

    Wait….what? You didn’t say anything at all! There is no meat in this speech! Where is your support for citizens and parents filing lawsuits for malicious negligence on the part of BOE’s, administrators, superintendents, teachers, and all school employees for creating these “killing-spree zones”? When will we hold those people who create the problems accountable for their actions? Don’t schools have strict truancy policies? If so why are “minor children” allowed out of school, basically truant, for political purposes when they have not yet reached the age of sovereignty? No “minor child” brainwashed in government run schools has any authority to usurp the rights and liberties of the people. Molon Labe!

    • Posted March 27, 2018
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      Jennifer Day

      Every American, regardless of age, has the right to peaceful protest, and the right to speak their minds. If they take on the possible consequence of detention or suspension (which would be ridiculous, IMO) for “truancy” due to their decision to walk out of class for 20 minutes, 1 hour, or a whole day, that is their decision to make.

      This isn’t about politics. This is about LIFE. This is about feeling safe in the world, and not being terrorized. This is about SO MUCH MORE, outside of politics alone, that to cite that as a reason why these young people shouldn’t be involved in this movement we’re seeing is literally preposterous.

  • Posted March 26, 2018
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    david

    Jason i hope someday you will run for congress or for the senate. We need some one with an iq above 10 to represent kansas

  • Posted March 26, 2018
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    Luann Wellborn

    Great speech, Jason. You are doing an exceptional job.

  • Posted March 26, 2018
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    Stephen Smalley

    Glad that you accepted the challenge of going and being a voice for those who are searching for a way to make a difference. It does seem you are passing the torch a bit prematurely by putting off action onto the next generation when what they are crying for is the urgency of swift and comprehensive measures now.

  • Posted March 29, 2018
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    Jim Unruh

    Jason, my two students thank you for coming to Wichita and were proud that you represent them. I am very proud of my two students. They thought about possible consequences for their protest and believed that it was more important to stand with other students. One of my students is in debate and researches both sides of arguments and is prepared to present both sides. The other student raised money for students in Puerto Rico.

    Their generation does their research, argue positions and compare thoughts. They will vote, they will be heard.

    Change will be coming.

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