March 20, 2018

To All Who Have Questioned the Power of Youth

By Sanaa Kahloon

Our legislators are aware of this movement, but I’m not sure they understand that this is about more than just our physical safety. This is about our fear, our frustration, our anger, and above all else, our hunger for change. We can all agree that innocent children should not be killed at school or anywhere else. Just in 2016, 33,636 American lives were cut short due to gun violence, counting suicides and accidental discharges, both equally as tragic. Each loss is an insult to our American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere else in the developed world is there a lobby devoted to actively promoting gun sales. In Japan, a country with restrictive gun laws, the number of gun deaths per year consistently remains in single digits.

Today we demand justice. Our ideas vary tremendously when it comes to implementing change. My beliefs are influenced not only by politics but my religion. The Quran teaches, “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to Allah [God] even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for Allah can best protect them both.” I’m here to follow this command. To fulfill it, our country must listen.

There can be no denying that here in America, there is a problem. It goes beyond the obvious statistics and penetrates our hearts and minds. School shootings have created a widespread panic. Everyone has a story:

Parents afraid to send their kids to school; administrators working tirelessly to ensure our safety; a teacher’s eight year old child, hugging her, crying, begging her not to go to work because he’s afraid his mom won’t come home; students finding the fastest escape route in each classroom, flinching every time someone goes on the intercom because they’re afraid that the next lockdown announced won’t be a drill, that they’ll be the next to bury a best friend.

But this isn’t just a matter of casualties, this is about their impacts. This is about classes becoming safe rooms, students crying on their books. This is about those who feel threatened by students making their voices heard. All over the country there were schools that forbade students from walking out, reprimanded, punished, or even suspended them. Freedom of speech and our right to protest are a cornerstone of our American democracy. Without it we will regress.

To all the people that have questioned the power of youth: LOOK at our faces, HEAR our voice.

These remarks were deliverd at the March For Our Lives Kentucky Rally organized by the Student Voice Team on the steps of the capitol in Frankfort on March 20, 2018.

Sanaa Kahloon

Sanaa Kahloon

Sanaa is an Advisor of KSVT and was previously the Research Director. She graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 2021 and is a student at Harvard University.