Ke’Aira McDowell delivers a speech during the 2018 Druid Hills High School walkout as part of national activities organized by high school students following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Remarks from March 14, 2018 at Druid Hills High School

By Ke’Aira McDowell

I speak to you this morning as a fellow student, as someone who shares many of the same fears and anxieties that you feel walking into school everyday. While I fully understand why many of you feel there’s no point in voting or being active in the political sphere, I hope today I can convince you otherwise. I want to stress why your individual voice is important, regardless of what anyone tries to tell you.

It’s easy for adults who don’t like what we have to say to dismiss our voices with claims that they “know more” than we do. But they don’t know what it’s like to be afraid of going to school. To hear yet another anonymous threat was made, and to wonder if it’s just another “joke” or if we will be the next victims of gun violence in an American school. How many of you, like me, have plotted out an imaginary escape route or plan of action in the case of an active shooter just while walking alone in the hall?

We keep asking ourselves, “how many times? How many times will another school shooting have to happen before something changes?” It never will if people like us don’t stand our ground and do our part to make it happen. The people in power now will never understand what it’s like. The priority of the powerful is not the safety of our country’s young people, it is not our lives. The primary concern of the powerful is ensuring that they can continue lining their pockets with money soaked in the blood of every victim of gun violence in this country.

They say young people are lazy and entitled.

They say we’re offended too easily.

They say we pay way too much for coffee and way too much for avocados.

The reality is our generation is special. Everyday, I am inspired and amazed by my peers, here at Druid Hills High School and everywhere around this country. We are accepting and loving and bright. We are angry, passionate, determined. And I might add, anger, passion, and determination make a daunting combination for anyone in our path.

We have far more power than we believe we do. Each year, a new wave of bright young people is granted the right to vote. Please exercise your right to vote. The ballot box is where it all happens. Change in the system occurs only when we change who makes the rules. Vote out the people who refuse to prioritize common sense gun laws.

If you aren’t old enough to vote yet, continue to make noise. I know the odds seem increasingly stacked against all of us. But continue to do what you can. Go to marches and protests, write letters, call your representatives. Let them know that we aren’t satisfied and we won’t be until preserving our lives become a priority. Use social media! Use it to spark fires, promote change, have discussions. And most importantly, stay informed. In a world where fake, biased news is rampant, do your research and inform people of the truth.

To the NRA and the legislators who have refused to fix our flawed system, I say you have a tremendous amount of blood on your hands. Your blatant disregard for our lives is appalling. We refuse to live our lives in fear so that you can continue to push your donor’s agenda. I am delighted to inform you that our numbers are on the rise and your time is running out. We will hold you accountable. You have begun to tear down the very foundations of this country in the name of money and power. And, for some reason, you think you can just leave us sitting behind in the rubble.

Not gonna happen. We will repair the country that you are on the path to destroy. Change is coming. We are the ones bringing it.

Students of Druid Hills and students everywhere, you matter. Your opinions matter. We all have a responsibility to do our part to create the change we want to see in this country. No one can do it alone. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Georgia’s WIN List is proud to be training a new generation of activists and candidates through our year long WIN Leadership Academy and a series of training sessions around the state which we will announce soon. Many women we have trained over the years already hold elected office.

Will you join our Double Down campaign to support the campaign fund we are building to push these women into the November 2020 victors circle? Between now and June 20 new or increased contributions will be matched. Make your generous gift today.