David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., helped spark one of the largest youth-led movements as co-founder of March for Our Lives, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence in the United States. On Oct. 14, Hogg—who contributed to Arcadia’s 2019 Common Read selection Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement—visited campus to discuss the importance of civic engagement.
Q: How has March for Our Lives grown?
A: We’ve done a lot at the state level, enacting background checks and protection orders that disarm people who are a danger to themselves or others. We’re supporting legislation that regulates supply as much as possible and trying to reduce the demand through public awareness campaigns—much like what was done with tobacco. There are several methods we have in mind; buyback programs, for instance, would be effective, as there’s no standardized system for getting rid of guns. But politics won’t change until the culture changes.
Q: What are your next steps?
A: The March for Our Lives Peace Plan, which we recently unveiled, is designed to reduce gun deaths by 50 percent in the next 10 years. That’s 200,000 lives. Universal background checks are not going to be enough until there’s no parent who knows the pain of losing a child to gun violence, until we support communities that have been ravaged by economic or political injustice, until students don’t have to worry if the seat they’re in is going to be the place they die. That’s not freedom.
Q: What do you like to see in young activists?
A: I like to see people do things because they’re right and just, not for credit. People who work out of love for their communities and their country, not for themselves or their résumés. In order to make change, you have to believe in something greater than yourself. You have to listen with humility.
Q: As a young activist, is it tough to admit when there’s something you don’t know?
A: Those are my favorite moments. You should always educate yourself. It’s important to have candid conversations with people who don’t agree with you. It helps you realize that the real enemy is not other Americans. It’s not Republicans or Democrats, nor is it NRA members or gun owners, like my father. The real enemies in this fight are the lack of laws, the corruption, and the violence that infects people’s minds, enabling them to pull triggers.
As hard as it may be, try to maintain and hold peace in your heart.
- David Hogg
Q: Gun violence is often portrayed as just a mental health issue. Why?
A: Americans are not comfortable talking about the country’s history of white supremacy. Many said the shooter in Parkland was mentally ill. I would argue the fact that a 19-year-old was able to get his hands on an AR-15—even though police were called on him multiple times—played a significantly higher role. There was white nationalist and anti-Semitic propaganda on his phone, and Stoneman Douglas High School had a large Jewish population. We also need to recognize that people who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of gun violence, rather than perpetrators. In many communities in America, it’s easier to pick up a gun to end the pain than it is to pick up a phone and call a quality, affordable therapist.
Q: What keeps you going?
A: When I wake up every day, I think, “Who’s the next inventor? The next to cure a disease? The next lawyer, doctor, mom, or dad who will be here because of our efforts?” My goal is a 71 percent youth voter turnout for 2020. If we can do that, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat or Republican president who’s elected. Young people, as the largest voting block in America, will have to be the priority of any politician.
Q:How can Arcadia students be involved in March for Our Lives?
A: Students who create March for Our Lives chapters can hold town halls with local representatives, help register voters in their communities, and work on art projects that humanize the issue. They’re out there knocking on doors. They educate young people across the nation, who in turn help make gun violence a priority for political candidates.
Q: What message do you have for communities affected by gun violence?
A: As hard as it may be, try to maintain and hold peace in your heart. Maintain that peace for the safety of the community as a whole. Don’t let violence create more violence.