11:23 am: There is silence. Beneath the blasting music and the shouted conversations on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C, it feels as if the Earth is waiting with baited breath. Although the March doesn’t begin until twelve o’clock, there is already an endless sea of people, packed shoulder to shoulder, like sardines in a can. Although I know none but my own party, I feel a connection with them all. For we are here for the same reason; we hope for the same thing; we hope for change.
12:06 pm: The March for Our Lives commences. I stand with my face raised and listen to students’ brave remarks. Their passion, hopes, and pain wash over the listening crowd, standing enraptured, hanging on every word. I scream until my voice is hoarse, clap until my hands are numb. I cry, unabashed, for the many lives destroyed, and from the inspiration I feel.
12:26 pm: From three blocks away, we hear a faint calling …“Vote Them Out”. It grows in strength and intensity as it reaches us. I chant, my voice joining thousands of others. In less than thirty seconds the harmonic proceeds six blocks down Pennsylvania Ave. Out of these many voices, a single message can be heard. A message of warning to those who won’t listen; a message of hope to those asking for change. From this chorus, I understand that which has already been declared by the many speakers: revolution is upon us.
Once in a generation a true and momentous revolution, in the full sense of the word, can take place in America… when people with bravery and hope, who truly believe in their message, stand up in protest of injustice and inequality. In the 1910’s, it was about women’s suffrage. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was about civil rights and equality for all. Now, in 2018, it’s about eradicating gun violence in communities across the nation.
Born out of the terror and devastation of the massacre of seventeen students and faculty at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and the pragmatic reactions of its’ young leaders, the #neveragain movement aims at fomenting this revolution and being at the forefront of significant change. The student-led movement advocates for stricter legislation regarding gun ownership and purchase. At the same time, they also criticize the powerful pro-gun groups for preventing what they see as “common sense” gun legislation. This group intends to dismember the myths that pervade discussions of gun control through truth, engagement, compassion, and love. To this emerging generation, #enoughisenough. The title of Cameron Kaksy’sspeech during the March for Our Lives speaks to this dawning era: Welcome to the revolution.
For those who believe that this is anything less than the arrival of the new global Z generation, they’re fooling themselves.
Across the US, there were more than two dozen marches that occurred in large cities, including New York, Miami, Cincinnati, Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Rallies were also held around the world in Israel, New Zealand, Australia, the U.K., Japan, Belgium, India, France and Chile. In total, according to a recent NBC news report, organizers estimated there were approximately 800 marches organized on Friday and Saturday — even one in Antarctica.
At this point, an important question must be asked. Why are people across the world, even in places like Germany and Australia (who have strict gun control laws and very little gun violence), supporting this movement? Taken at face value, this makes no sense. This movement is all about gun control. Yet, if we look deeper, we can see that this is about
“creating a morally just society.”
#neveragain may have started as a student led revolution, but is has quickly morphed into something of a much bigger scale. The March for Our Lives was not just a student-run event which miraculously drew 800,000 people in Washington, across the nation, and in every continent in the world. No, it was people responding to the need for a new morality, an ethical compass, and a new set of values to rebuild shattered institutions. This is referred to as strategic harmony, building harmonious institutions that reflect a sustainable, values driven model that is inclusive and equitable across generations, ethnicities, and economic groups.
It wasn’t just teenagers getting involved in this march. People of all ages participated, and a clear majority of marchers (about 90%) were over the age of 18, many of them parents and grandparents who were speaking with their voices, their signs, and their presence about the need for change. They saw this movement for what it truly was. For them, it is not just about gun control or banning automatic weapons…this is about banning the violence, dishonesty, and greed that has for so long controlled the structures of power. People are joining in such numbers because they are tired of the bald power and “business as usual” politics controlling our government. Some are certainly rallying to the banner of gun control and safety in schools and public places, but more than anything this is The March for Our Lives. It’s about supporting less violence in all communities…a goal many people all over the world are willing to fight for. This revolution is asserting that the people’s voice and values matters. Thus, at its core, this is a movement rooted in the need for non-violent and democratic social change.
To put it simply, this movement has struck an international nerve. The world is crying out for change and harmony, and it means even more because it started with the younger generation.
Emergence of the Next Generation
These emerging young leaders from Parkland spoke and led differently than many expected. They exemplified leaders of the future, called Catalyzers, instead of conforming to the myths about the expected behavior of teenagers. Instead, they spoke with moral authority as survivors and articulated what they believed was right truthfully and with raw intensity. These teenagers, while speaking with passion and rage, spoke “Truth to Power” with evidence to back their ideas.
These students were trained in high school to be articulate, organized, forthright, and respectful of the rule of law as well as its processes. They entered the public sphere with the reasonable and sustainable goal of trying to make it more difficult to acquire firearms. Focused on creating a stricter policy to prevent guns from getting in the wrong hands, they did not court extremism or go radical. Rather, they realized that simple, common sense change was the most harmonious option for everyone.
With the intention and mindset to catalyze immediate and exponential change, they clearly expressed their goals with the power of truth in one collaborative voice. Their goal is not to just enable people but to lead change. They aim to reinvent and re-establish a safe and sustainable America…and ultimately, to make this world better and rebuild our shattered institutions.
Within this movement, compromise and collective action are key pillars. As one student said in a CBS interview, “The policy makers in this country must work together. And I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. These are children’s lives. That’s the end of the line…. It’s just a matter of overcoming our political barriers in order to save children’s lives, and in that way, our future too.”
These young men and women have uncovered the truth — working togetheris the only way to repair the divisiveness of our world and enact real substantial change. They are the perfect ones to be able to do this. They know how to use digital technologies and media, and they can create and collaborate at ease. They are passionate and know what their values and purpose are. Moreover, this movement has finally unfettered this generation from its own laziness.
Parkland’s leaders used their digital savvy to engage with the voices of others, to drive people from across generational boundaries to disseminate information about the movement, and to ultimately call the nation to action. In response, people took to the streets in droves as the ultimate expression of solidarity. These students have inspired hundreds of thousands of people to stand up for what they believe in; to use actions instead of mere words.
This fact is simply incredible, considering the extent of “slacktivism” in modern activism. All too often, Americans are content to post an article on a social media site and leave their activism to the non-committal digital world. To see evidence of this, you only need to look at the #BringBackOurGirlscampaign or the Kony 2012 campaign and remember how people failed to take tangible action. The #neveragain movement has quickly managed to reverse this trend and mobilize hundreds of thousands to march for change by sharing their values, igniting their base, and maintaining a consistent and compelling call to action. This generation is uninhibited and ready for action, and they have already taken one of the first steps in sustaining their movement. They have rapidly mobilized not just the younger generations but every generation.
Sustaining the Revolution
The revolution has certainly begun, and the chorus of harmony has been heard. But, the real test of its leaders and supporters will be in the upcoming weeks and months. Revolutions are easy to begin but often hard to finish. The #neveragain movement must be wary. How many campaigns have simply faded into obscurity in only a few short months?
The students clearly have a passion to change national politics and the world, but they are faced with a myriad of issues. According to a recent MSN article, the Parkland students are already being personally attacked by lies and personal innuendos. Furthermore, they need to find sustainability to avoid being another flash in the pan political movement like Occupy Wall Street or Kony 2012.
As #neveragain works to transform their inspiration into a powerful and sustainable mechanism for change, they will need to begin to implement the strategies of Transformative Management:
1. Driven and purposeful. Love and leadership can always overcome corruption and bring about change. Gun control catalyzed this movement, but so much more can come out of it: this movement can create more equality and bring about more needed social change. It can also be an inspiration to others to speak out in support of what they believe.
2. Speak Truth to Power. Our country’s democracy supports freedom of speech, as proven in the First Amendment. This movement demonstrates its power by articulating the truth with facts and shattering myths and “fake news.”
3. Align your values. To sustain this revolution, the NextGen must allow their passion and values to surface continually. They should clearly state their values and be accountable to living them in their actions. Values become a benchmark for unifying the team and the movement. This will keep attracting people from all walks of life with a shared ethical compass. Thus, values must stay at the forefront as they will continue to appeal to a large base and keep the movement from pursing inconsistent goals and polices.
4. Consistent branding and messaging. To keep this movement alive, the group cannot lean too far to the extreme on either side. The messaging must be consistent across all media and spokespeople. They need to include collaboration and compromise from all people across the political spectrum, and it must be careful not to become an anti-President Trump movement and alienate others. They need to collaborate and reach across generations and divisions. The leaders and supporters cannot allow themselves to be bogged down by their detractors. The committed followers of the movement must continually live out their values and stay true to what they believe.
5. Organization must reflect their values. Organizational structure based on egalitarianism, openness, and transparency must continue. #neveragainmust build a multi-generational and multi-functional innovation team that reviews, guides, and sustains the change in the direction the organization wants.
6. Digital marketing strategy must be proactive. A flexible but focused digital strategy is an imperative to continue to grow this revolution. They need to reach the masses with truth… to realize and translate their values into concrete action. To be effective, they must plan out their goals, continue to disseminate their call to action, and deliver all of this with a clear strategy. Thus, the value of having a nuanced, planned, and thorough purposeful digital marketing strategy cannot be understated.
7. Ensure a sustainable impact. To sustain the movement, #neveragainmust determine short and long-term goals. It must measure its performance and impact (social change, gun control reform, and voting in responsive legislators). Vision, passion for change can be fueled, but without foresight and metrics to benchmark their efforts, success will be severely hindered.
The revolution is here! But, is it here to stay? How Parkland’s students work to make their movement sustainable will ultimately decide its fate.
They must not let the chorus of harmony fade into silence. Rather, through their efforts and ours, we can share its resonant and healing melody across the nation…and the globe.
Will Tharp, Millennial interested in inspiring global change; Junior, Lynchburg College; Content Development Associate, Entwine Digital
Ira Kaufman, Baby Boomer interested in organization and digital transformation; co-author, Strategic Harmony… 21 Solutions to the Shattered World