It’s deja vu all over again.
Watching coverage of the March for Our Lives event in Washington on March 24 and listening to the voices of the teenagers who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., triggered memories for me of the 1960s.
I was 8 when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to some 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. King called on the nation to live up to its ideals and end racial segregation.
I just re-read that speech and found themes in it that coincide with the demands of these courageous young people for their representatives in Congress to do something about the pandemic of gun violence that is killing their friends and families.
As King spoke for the millions whose value and dignity was dismissed because of the color of their skin, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler of Virginia warned the powerful not to ignore her because of her age.
“We know that we stand in the shadow of the Capitol,” she said. “And we know that we have seven short years until we, too, have the right to vote.”
But for me, none was more powerful than Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez, who honored the 17 people killed that day by standing silent, tears streaking her face, for six minutes, 20 seconds – how long the shooting lasted.
These children give me hope because they show the power and resiliency of our nation. They may not be old enough to vote, but they are savvy enough to know that they are not powerless. That can been seen clearly in the polling that has come out in the wake of this tragedy.
In a Franklin Marshall poll released Thursday, 61 percent of Pennsylvanians said they would strongly support new laws banning assault-style weapons, and 86 percent strongly favored stricter background checks for gun buys.
“You can’t be anything but stunned by those numbers,” said Dr. G. Terry Madonna, director of the poll for the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at FM. “It’s a consensus.”
I’m impressed by how fearless these students are as they face their political leaders. They are unimpressed by the powerful.
But mostly, I’m encouraged that this generation understands the power our Constitution gives all of us. They are being maligned by some, just as my generation was for opposing the war in Vietnam, but they also know that time is on their side.
They realize that lawmakers work for them, not the other way around, and they are tired of waiting for them to do what needs to be done.
“Enough is enough,” King’s 9-year-old granddaughter Yolanda Renee King told the crowd in Washington on March 24.
Fifty-five years ago, her grandfather stood near the same spot, and said: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.”
I think this next generation gets it.