Walkout Speech: Student Voice in the Fight for Gun Control


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SILVER SPRING, MD – FEBRUARY 21: Students from Montgomery Blair High School march down Colesville Road in support of gun reform legislation February 21, 2018 in Silver Spring, Maryland. In the wake of last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, the students planned to take public transportation to the U.S. Capitol to hold a rally demanding legislation to curb gun violence in schools. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Chelsea Sheldon , Writer

The speech below was delivered by Chelsea Sheldon during the school Walk Out on April 20. 


Thank you all so much for coming.

I hope that moments like these inspire you. They certainly inspire me. I mean, look around you. This room is full of students who care. Students taking action. That is incredible.

It is easy to forget that we have the power to change the world. It is easy to think that because we are students we have no voice; we have no impact on something as huge as the U.S. government. This could not be further from the truth. We are this country’s future voters, and our voice is powerful. We just need to use it.

The past few months have reminded students all across this country of the power of their voices. The power of involvement. The power of informed and planned action. No matter your beliefs one cannot deny the beauty of that reminder. Students all across this country are standing up and saying “no more”. It is this action, this engagement, that keeps America alive.

And so today I want to urge you to never forget that power; the power of the student voice. Countless students have harnessed this power throughout history. Look at the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, a student-run organization in the 1960s that grew out of the first sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement and played a huge role in the March on Washington, Freedom Summer, and the Selma Campaigns. Or John F. Tinker who was 15 when he and his siblings wore a black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War and was suspended. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court where it was decided the First Amendment still applies to students while they are in school. And today, the students of Parkland are refusing to let the gun debate be forgotten. That is the power of the American student. That is what we need to remember.

And for those of you who are not students, continue to foster student voice in your classrooms. In doing so, you are giving us all the power to change the world and we thank you for that.

And so I hope that each and everyone of you will continue to loudly use your voice, be it for this cause or another. Let’s change the fact that our generation routinely has the lowest voter turnout and make ourselves heard, especially this November.

Now I would never want to tell you how or when to use your voice. It is your voice after all. But remember that the voice of a student is a powerful thing and people will listen as long as you speak.

Thank you.