• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

A Day in the Park

Youth politics.

 

August 9, 2018
 
 

The Wife and The Girl made the trip to Lidgerwood Park in Morristown, NJ, on Thursday -- about an hour and a half each way -- to take part in the Road to Change rally. It’s organized by the March For Our Lives group, including several of the survivors of the Parkland High School massacre. It’s all about encouraging young people to register to vote so they can change some laws and stop the epidemic of school shootings.  

It wasn’t their first foray into activism. As regular readers know, TG and a few of her friends organized a walkout at their middle school this Spring on the day of walkouts across the country, to the consternation of their principal. When the massive rally took place in D.C., all four of us went, along with TB’s girlfriend, my brother, and his wife and daughters.

The middle school walkout was smallish. The DC march was enormous, which was great, but which also involved real distance from the speakers.  Thursday’s rally was big enough to draw some muckety-mucks, but small enough to meet them. TG did.

She met Governor Murphy, who actually listened to her while she spoke to him. (She commented later that he was wearing the same shoes she was. She didn’t quite know what to make of that.) She met David Hogg, and reported that he “seemed very serious.” She was most excited to meet Emma Gonzalez, though -- whom she called “our Katniss” at the DC rally -- and called me at work, giddy, after she did.

She introduced herself to Emma, thanking Emma for her leadership and telling her about the walkout she led here.  Emma gave her a hug and congratulated her on stepping up. Later, as TG reported, most of the teenagers there started dancing to “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and she had what she called the “dreamlike” experience of dancing to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” about ten feet from Emma, who was doing the same.  

It’s easy to forget just how young they are. Which is, at a really basic level, the point.

She also managed to finagle her way to Senator Cory Booker, who took a selfie with her. She had psyched herself up to ask him for his vote in 2040, but the moment passed. I suspect she’ll get more.  

Years of debate tournaments, along with just being her, have given her the poise and confidence to walk right up to people she admires and introduce herself. (Or, to ignore an overmatched principal and just do what’s right.) The odds that I could have done even a fraction of that at her age are approximately zero. It simply would not have happened.  She just plants her feet and does it.

The tour of rallies is moving northward, to conclude in Newtown, Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre happened.  It’s horrifying that there have been enough massacres to constitute a tour, but at least this group of kids is stepping up.

Political change isn’t a walk in the park, but it’s not a bad way to start.  The kids are alright.
 

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