Videos and transcripts of the poems and speeches written for the walkout
March 15, 2018
— Tonka News (@Tonka_News) March 14, 2018
The following is a submitted transcript of junior Joe Bell’s speech, read partly before and partly after the march:
For all of you that don’t know you me, my name is Joe Bell and I am a student as all of you are. Know who you are. No matter what race, religion, gender, background you are, as students we are all affected by school shootings, it could’ve been here, it could have just as easily been me or you or you or you or any of us being gunned down. We cannot wait for more children to die in order to ban bump stocks which create fully automatic rifles, we cannot wait to have better resources for mental illness, we cannot wait to just vote. We must demand change from our politicians. The reason we have gathered here to demonstrate and project our voices is for our fallen students and staff around our country, who no longer have voices, but died for ours. We must not lose this chance to demand action. What kind of a world are we going to create when we’re older. This is no joke, we should not have to be “marching for our lives” but that’s exactly what this is. We are here to visualize as a collective, we need change. Our voices matter. Every life matters, Every student matters.
These are the names of the students and teachers that lost their lives in the most recent school shooting. We would like to honor them today along with every other life lost to shootings. Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang. The adults that sacrificed their lives for students: Scott Beigel, Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon. These names in just one month would have been turned into more statistics on the TV as politicans and pundits argue, as the students come forward and demand change. Now it is up to us to join them, join our voices. Together we can change our culture.
This is not the same world that our parents and the people running our country went to school. No one knows what the atmosphere of schools are like better than the students. Mobilized students have voices and we are now using our voices to create the change we want inside our country, community’s, homes and lives. We cannot be written off because we are young, we will not be written off because we supposedly don’t know what we are talking about. Students are the only ones faced with life and death learning inside schools.
We the students are the ones that must cope with constant threats of death: in the one place where we should never have to worry about anything except learning. We the students should decide how to make our school’s safer. Students is it not already hard enough to learn in classrooms that have technology and class clowns? How will we learn if there is a presence of guns in classrooms? Students can barely keep their attention on the teacher in a normal classroom without distractions: let alone a gun.
If we could safely arm some teachers, how much training would be enough, how often, who would pay for it? Schools can barely find the funding for books and events. How will we buy guns for all these teachers? Even in the military after years of training some people can freeze in the moment, or misfire. The kind of thinking that would introduce more guns into a society plagued by gun violence is ridiculous and nonsensible. We can no longer even keep an accurate count on how many school shootings have happened, because they continue to happen constantly… Parents and friends of the victims are un able to stop and mourn their loved ones because they are fighting vigorously to craft and change laws. In the fight for change, the NRA called kids who had just seen their friends gunned down, political actors. This kind of behavior and ignorance should not be funding our government.
We must remove the politicians who say they represent the people that elect them, but in reality, only stand for the money being given from interest groups. Politician’s caught in what’s called an iron triangle which is an interest group such as the NRA or big tobacco which provides voting support and money to a congressional committee and by lobbying for bureaucrats (which is money and support). In return, the interest groups get favorable legislation from congress, and low regulations from bureaucracy’s. This is why our politicians represent large interest groups instead of the ordinary people. In the 2016 election the NRA donated around 70 million dollars, and had told the federal election commission that it had only spent 55. Donald trump, our president and commander in chief, received 10 million from the NRA, and also received 19.7 million in aid to attack his opposing candidate. I don’t know how much all of you make, maybe 10$ an hour at most So, we should all understand why our government is not acting upon this issue.
Our society transformed problems such as school shootings into jokes, instead of addressing the problems that must be confronted: mental illness, gun accessibility, school security. These constant threats and nothing being done about it is turning our country into a joke. Since the Parkland shooting there have been over 800 school shooting threats. How is the FBI supposed to take every threat seriously when we the students are treating our lives as a joke? Just a few weeks ago Tonka had a lockdown because there was a fake threat, or just a fabricated lie to try and get out of school. Is getting one day out of school more important than students’ lives? If we don’t take our lives seriously, why should politician’s? We the students must choose to stick up for our own lives. Students, we must not stand by and wait for our politicians to take their leisurely time passing laws protecting us. They will never sit in a classroom and hear gunshots followed with impulses of immediate panic. We must voice that we need change and need it now.
I encourage all of you to write, call, email, make contact with your representatives. We must all register to vote, and we must all participate in every single election! We have to inspire people, and care about our own futures. We have to wake politicians up. Tell them we want change and we want it now!
Why have shootings become so common that we can now only look at them in statistics, and not people. This is because “statistics” keep accumulating when we stop to mourn our friends, children, brothers, and sisters, teachers, students. Only 3 months into 2018 there have already been 19 school shootings where at least one person (besides the gunman) has been shot. This is not even including the number of single students who weren’t defined in the category of “mass murder.” As a nation, we must get rid of the stigmas surrounding mental health. We must call for new action for children’s mental health. Mental illness is not a joke, it is real and extremely powerful. I encourage anyone who needs help, or maybe just someone to talk to, reach out: ask for help and help will be given. We must also call for a universal ban on bump stocks that allow semi -automatic weapons to be converted into fully automatic weapons. We must also demand the age limit to buy any gun be raised to 21. This is to help ensure that guns don’t easily fall into the hands of high school kids. It should not be easier to buy a gun than to drive a car. Because I know every adult is a teenager driving a car, why aren’t they afraid of a teenager with a gun? The most fond and favorable activity of my life is turkey hunting with my father.
I am not saying we must ban guns or get rid of the 2nd amendment right, I am a gun owner myself, and love to hunt with my father. There is an indescribable feeling of home sitting in the woods watching the world awake. We always rise earlier than everything, creep into solidarity inside the thick trees, and gaze at a quiet dark field. As the hours pass and the sun begins to peek above the tree’s horizon, it casts a golden light upon the field glistening the dew from nights past. A slow and steady chirping of birds slowly begins. As the dew slowly melts from the grass you can see the colors of the forest take ahold. It is not the power of a gun that makes hunting fun, nor even killing a turkey. It is the beauty I find from nature, and the unreclaim able time spent with my father, who has stage 3 brain cancer.
However, growing up in the environment of guns while tagging along hunting with my father I learned to respect guns an unfathomable amount, first handedly seeing them kill things. A 12-gauge shotgun with one blast can blow a hole through a target, or blow the head off a turkey. It could, and easily does, kill people. So, from a young age I found the respect associated with guns. Yet I cannot respect a hunter who needs a weapon of war to hunt. Guns are made for killing things, and selling a fully automatic or semi-automatic, weapon of war is completely unnecessary! Any good hunter should be able to kill an animal with a simple shotgun or rifle, and if they can’t and need a weapon of war; I don’t think they should be hunting
Many people are afraid of guns, I am afraid the intent behind the trigger. I was fortunate enough to grow up around them and be educated about them. I was fortunate enough to feel the power of a gun, and fortunate enough to experience the beauty of an awakening world. How many more children must die before our society can wake up? The answer should be none. As a country, we must get better at regulating tools for human destruction. Human lives mustn’t be reduced to repetitive desensitized statistics any longer. In this time of darkness that has swept over our country, we mustn’t lose sight of the light America strives to be. I ask you all, my fellow Americans what can you do for your children. What type of world are we all going to live in, what kind of people are we going be in order to represent that world. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” We as a culture must decide what is right. It isn’t too late for our kids, it isn’t too late for our country, but as the days continue to expire so will more children.
Sometimes it is adults who teach children but it is time that children teach adults.
— Tonka News (@Tonka_News) March 14, 2018
The following is a transcript of senior Danielle Dodd’s speech:
Hi my name is Danielle Dodd, and I’d like to read to you a summary of “Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America”, a report led by Shane Jimerson of the University of California and Matthew Mayer of Rutgers Graduate school of Education, both are professors who specialize in the study of Gun Violence.
The project began immediately after the Parkland shooting and took two weeks to complete during which collaborators included some of the leading experts in the field. Two-hundred universities, national education and mental health groups, school districts and 2,300 individual experts signed on to support the document.
Their ultimate message is not to harden schools, but to take a public health approach, to make schools gentler by improving social and emotional health. Instead of waiting for the worst to happen, preventative measures should be put in place: we do our best to lower bullying and discrimination. It is also recommended that we remove the (quote) “environmental hazards” of gun violence, the guns. The plan calls for universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.
The plan heavily emphasizes prevention. Research finds several key factors that make schools safer: cultivating social and emotional health, connection to community resources, and responding to troubled students.
All of this culminates in, essentially, in fighting bullying, discrimination and harassment within school, as a way to de-escalate conflict before it starts. We know that de-escalation works, there has been a steady trend of bullying and harassment going down, which can be partially attributed to evidence-based social and emotional measures.
Another important aspect of the plan is addressing the no-snitch culture within schools. California’s comprehensive annual survey showed that 20 to 30 percent of students above the elementary level consistently report seeing some kind of weapon at school, from knives to nunchakus to guns. Ideally, the witness will report the incident, and the report here urges that the school not punish the student that brings the weapon, but instead, use (quote) “education as an intervention.” The report calls for an end to exclusionary practices, such as suspension and expulsion, and instead matching students with counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in the school and in the community.
The report touches on the idea of emergency modes, which would begin when a person reports a weapon brought into school or speaking about violence, which would then go to a threat assessment team, consisting of a principal, school counselor, school psychologist and school-based police officer, they talk to witnesses, try to get an idea how serious the threat is. Parents are notified and steps are taken to protect victims and, if appropriate, referrals to mental health care and law enforcement.
What these experts ask us to do is radically change our environment, change our punishment policies, change how we treat each other. Change is hard to come by, change is something that takes pushing, and pulling and a never-ending amount of work. Killing is something that takes just a pull of your little finger.
And about that little finger, attached to a bigger gun, I’ll say this about guns: they worry me, anything that can end a human life that quickly and efficiently worries me. It worries me more when we act as though they aren’t a factor in the situation America finds itself in, and there’s a lot of debate about the second amendment, and the wording, and militias, but my stance is this: the prerogative to learn should always trump the prerogative of weaponry.
I want to feel safe in my school. I want my six-year-old brother to feel safe in his school, and my ten-year-old brother to be safe in his school, and I want the kids I see every single day to be safe in our school. It is ours, it is our place that we create and add to, and whether you hate it here or you pour your heart and soul into Winnetonka, you deserve to be safe. We all deserve safety, and the peace of mind of knowing that we are. I know we can get it. Thank you.
The following is a transcript of junior Katie Bullock’s speech. It was preceded by a spoken word poem which can be viewed in the above video:
A week after Parkland a boy dropped his backpack outside my classroom. Three people jumped and whispered “shooting” like it was a question. This is not okay. When I went to Dr. Johnson about this event, he pulled me and Joe into his office and told us he was worried that this many people in one place could spell just another tragedy. This is not okay.
And this is not just Parkland. This is not just 17 people. It is not about the 200 chairs you see behind me, it is not Sandy Hook or Columbine or even school shootings in general. This is all of it. It is about the drive-by shooting a few houses away from mine four weeks ago, it’s about the little boy killed four days ago, it’s about the mom who hugged me and held me at a Harvester’s project and told me her son had been shot and killed the night before. It’s about all the people whose names we don’t get the privilege of meeting in person.
This is not just a walkout. It’s not just a march. This, us, we are a generation and I hope we are the generation that can turn around the proliferation of gun violence because I never want there to be another Parkland. But it doesn’t stop here. It doesn’t stop on this track. This has to carry into your classrooms and your living rooms. This is not just a march, it’s a movement. And I ask that we carry this movement in our thoughts and in our voices instead of in our backpacks because silence will not change a thing like this.
I’m going to be honest; I don’t hate school shootings. I have tried, believe me, but I can’t hate them. Because the thing is, these shootings are caused by hate, and I struggle to bring myself to hate them because it feels like I am just hating hatred itself and that feels too much like trying to bomb for peace.
What I do know, is that I love you all. I go to bed at night and I lay on my back because I know I will not fall asleep on my back and I think of all the people in this world that are so beautiful and incredible. And I love you in a way I am not sure how to describe and I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. We are all people. We are all here. I pray we stay that way.
But we have to speak up. When we see a policy that needs to be changed we cannot remain silent because silence is not silent when it is just stepping aside. When we see a person that needs help, we must reach out to them. This is me reaching out to you.
I ask people their favorite colors a lot and no one ever says orange. It is not a loved color, but today it is what we are surrounded by. So whenever you see orange, or your favorite color or yourself in the mirror I want you to remember me and you and this moment and I want you to remember what it feels like to know you are loved, at least by me. That feeling and our ability to voice it into words is the only thing we can use to change this world.
Listen, I am still not sure how Reyes can make music from misery. But I hope, I know, that one day that can be me, that can be all of us.
The following is a transcript of senior Harper Ross’s speech:
Hello, my fellow Winnetonka students.
My name is Harper Ross, and I’d like to first thank all of you for coming out here today, for using your presence, your voice, to stand up for something you believe in and something that affects us all—school safety.
I’d also like for us to give a round of applause for our fantastic organizers for this event who encouraged us to take advantage of the opportunity to gather here today to make a difference.
Today, we were given the opportunity to exercise our voices for a cause. In a world rich with injustice, we cashed in our right to speak out.
At 10:17, our protest will end. But at 10:17, we do not have to go silent.
While it may seem sometimes like what we think means nothing, today we proved that it means something. Today, we made our thoughts mean something, and through the most basic forms of activism and community engagement, we can continue to make them mean something.
Those of you who are 18, I urge you to register to vote. Voting is some of the best, most direct policymaking action you can take and who and what you vote for today can affect generations to come. Never let voting opportunities pass you by. If you have questions or concerns because of citizenship struggles, economic barriers, or another obstacle, speak with people here at school and in the community, and they will help provide you with the resources you need to make your voting dreams a reality.
I also have a text resource for you and would like to encourage you to text “RESIST” in all caps to 504-09 in order to get information on who your senators are based on where you live as well as how you can contact them.
Once again, I would like to thank you all for making your voices heard today, and I wish you all the best as you continue to be empowered by the recognition that all the power you could ever need to make a positive change lies in you. Have a wonderful rest of your school day, and thank you for coming.