On Saturday, my friend and I made our way to March For Our Lives by taking the D.C. Metro to L’Enfant Plaza.
Among our fellow riders was a little boy and his mom. The boy wore knitted mitten toppers with large blue eyes. Shy, he asked his mom, “What’s a plaza?”
At the rally, we wedged between a group of students who took a bus down from Boston and a gaggle of middle and high school girls with their moms who drove nine hours from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
A yoga teacher. A high school social studies teacher from Long Island. A stay-at-home mom. A woman who told me she lived here and enough was enough. Behind me I heard a voice say, “This traffic is worse than the 405.” A fellow Angeleno thought the people traffic rivaled rush hour.
The Kids, They Were Incredibly Serious
I saw as many gray hairs as braces at March For Our Lives. And, yes, there were proud smiles and a bunch of defiant waving of signs and crowd rousing chants like “Vote them out!”
But what most stood out to me was the serious looks on the kids’ faces, the occasional tear that escaped, the way the kids near me looked down at their tennis shoes as they shuffled on the ground. I studied the faces of two African-American girls who sat on a curb across from the Newseum and listened to speaker Mya Middleton from Chicago recount her experience with a gunman in a Chicago convenience store:
“He pulls out this silver pistol and points it in my face and said these words that to this day haunt me and give me nightmares. He said, ‘If you say anything, I will find you.’ And yet I’m still saying something today.”
The crowd may have cheered, but these teens listened intently, kept their eyes on a patch of melting snow where a couple of toddlers played.
The march was incredibly real, the speakers incredibly articulate and aware, the message incredibly inclusive. And the desperate chant “We Want Change” stuck in my ears and might always be there. The kids, they were incredibly serious.
Later that afternoon I left D.C. in my rental car. I switched on the radio hoping to hear recaps of the march.
Instead, I landed on a conservative talk radio show where the host and a caller were—shockingly—discussing “problems” with today’s youth: They’ve been raised on video games, iPhones, social media, with single parents, they have no work ethic or moral compass, yada yada yada.
Immediately I realized that if I heard this discussion a few months ago I may not have agreed, but it wouldn’t have seemed utterly tone deaf and absolutely appalling. This is real change. This I know happened for certain on Saturday. A generation earned respect. What are we going to call them? The Far-Better-Than-Us Gen? Smart Gen?
I switched the radio channel, felt across the seat for my sunglasses, and recalled the voice of Parkland student speaker Cameron Kasky.
“I see a bright, new future.”