This weekend, as thousands took to the street for the March for Our Lives, I felt many emotions: sorrow that young people don’t feel safe in schools, frustration at the current political deadlock that keeps us from making lasting gun reform, and pride that our teenagers are leading the way to better policies and safer communities.
Using the tools they have available—their voices— they are advocating for important change.
At the Evans School, our mission is to give future leaders the tools to make effective change. The high school students who marched this month don’t have MPAs—yet. But they are reaching for and creating their own tools, recognizing challenges, identifying policies that need to be fixed, and generating a wave of impact. They are bringing forth ideas rooted in evidence, shaped by practicality, and imbedded in opportunity.
Earlier this month on March 14th, I watched as hundreds of high school students flooded onto the UW campus, right past my office in Parrington Hall. All afternoon I heard speeches from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and members of the Seattle City Council as they addressed the crowd, and cheers as student leaders stood up to demand change. University of Washington students, faculty, and administrators watched as this new generation claimed the stage.
The tone was different in 1971, when I was a public policy graduate student at the University of California Berkeley, and marched with 156,000 others through the city to protest the Vietnam War—but the desire for action was the same.
My granddaughter is a freshman in high school, and also walked out on March 14th. I’m a proud grandmother for many reasons, but her actions that day—and the actions of her peers across the country—give me so much hope for the future. Her generation is willing and anxious to engage in tough, demanding conversations about policies that will be difficult to change.
In five or ten or fifteen years, I look forward to welcoming these students into Parrington Hall as the next generation of public service leaders. Our job is to give them new analytic tools and management frameworks, and then to offer our encouragement as they continue to push us, and the public policy landscape, forward.