The barbarous mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has become a Lexington and Concord moment for young people across the nation who demand that action be taken so the carnage in our schools can end. While heroic teachers in Parkland gave their lives to protect their students, the students who survive are teaching their elders the meaning of decency, dignity and democracy.
Americans across the nation are inspired by witnessing students who days ago were fleeing from deadly bullets, and shielding young friends from death, rising to demand action that honors the memory of the dead and defends the lives of the living.
These magnificent young examples of Americanism are saying their piece, speaking their truths, staking their claim and coming to Washington to push for action that should have long ago been taken. In the case of banning assault rifles this action was taken for a decade until special interests and political cowards let the ban expire and helped paved the way for carnage that continues in our classrooms, and killing that continues from a country music concert in Nevada to houses of worship in South Carolina and Texas.
Cynics who believe that young people taking a stand cannot prevail should remember that the patriots at Lexington and Concord were told that they could never defeat the British crown. A governor of Alabama once proclaimed in his inaugural address “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” which young marchers for civil rights and voting rights refused to accept.
Cynics who bet against the young Davids who demand their birthright to grow up in safety, and battle against old Goliaths who are the prisoners of petty corruptions and small thinking that infects highly unpopular politicians in Washington, should remember that many of them will vote in the 2018 midterms. Even more will vote in the 2020 presidential election. All of them can register voters, support candidates and make small donations today.
The young people are right to demand increased support for mental health programs, better management of information so warnings about criminals reach the right people to prevent future crimes, and above all action to prevent weapons that kill enemies in war from killing students in school.
Like Mr. Smith, the students are coming to Washington en masse on March 24. They deserve our support. Those who want to offer support or donations for their mission can visit their home page, marchforourlives.com. Both parties in Washington should hear their message and act. The students and their supporters have the power to win their case in national elections, state legislatures and state ballot initiatives. Their dreams and the people’s will can and should be turned into law.
When President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE failed to act like the national leader we expect and deserve in the aftermath of the mass murder in Florida, the passionate and eloquent students filled the gap of leadership and issued their call to action. It was shameful for Trump and Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott to use the mass murder of students as a talking point for another cheap shot attack against the FBI, but it is not too late for them to rise to the occasion and honor their public trust.
The students may win their first victory if Trump supports legislation to improve background checks for gun owners, which would be a small first step.
Trump has the opportunity of a lifetime if he wants to be the president of all the people, if he can think like a father protecting his children and not the leader of a faction protecting their interests. He can leave a lasting legacy for life over bloodshed by standing with the students, and telling his friends and foes that guns that kill enemies in war should not kill students in schools.
If Trump does not rise to the occasion, the cause of the students is just. A majority of Americans support them. Ultimately they will prevail.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.