As people who are deeply cherished in my life, I’m asking for your help – that you long continue to keep in your thoughts my high school – Marjory Stoneman Douglas – and my hometown of Parkland, Florida. My “home” since infancy, with nearly 32,000 incredible people who live quietly alongside the beautiful Everglades, and its neighboring city of Coral Springs are grappling with a tragic mass shooting. Douglas is just a five minute walk from my childhood house. My family, friends, and this community are devastated. I am devastated.
This was the place that motivated me to pursue a meaningful future in Washington. And it is where I was equipped with many of the passions/personality that I bring into my friendship with you. Douglas stands out as a shining example of public education excellence. It is one of the best high schools in the state, indeed in the entire country. This is because its educators are extraordinary. Many of them have been invaluable mentors to me and have inspired my closest friends to pursue the best higher education and meaningful careers. This is where social studies teachers in December 2005 held a surprise gathering to congratulate my early acceptance to the College of William and Mary. They got me there. I say these things so you know more than the scenes that have filtered across national news. So you know how this place has a connection to you in a very real way. So we don’t dismiss it as just another incident. There are now beautiful kids from my community who won’t have the same opportunities that I did. There are beautiful families in Parkland who will never be the same. And there are future friendships all across the country that will never be had, as you do, with a Parklander. My home, the mecca of youthful memories, will never be the same. And I can promise you that those thousands of children who have been hurt – physically and mentally – are exactly like you were in high school. I know this because I was one of them, and I know you.
Please give your partners, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues a big huge when you see them. Don’t hold back. And, if you’re not the touchy type, tell them unequivocally how much you appreciate them and how special they are. Look into their eyes and smile when you do. This is the best, immediate tool each of us has. Love is the only creative, redemptive, and transforming power in the universe. And – if your conscience finds it appropriate – tell them that what has happened in Parkland is not okay. Don’t write this off. If for no other reason than you are now directly connected to it through me (and not the television). It wasn’t okay yesterday, it’s not okay today, and for you it won’t be okay tomorrow. The beautiful thing is that you and those you touch, in turn, have tomorrow a chance to use voice, creativity, and actions to right this wrong. This is true both in our daily living as well as through our civic engagement. There is no single solution. And there are many paths with dead ends. But, that doesn’t matter. It will take collective action to address this grand challenge. I’m hoping, as my friend, you’ll serve this collective action in any way you can, starting with your own communities. And that you’ll put love at the core, providing space for dialogue and exchanging solutions with those you may disagree with. Because I believe this is the most essential tool that will make Parkland one of the last communities to ever go through this.
In honor of the place that has given me everything, I've decided to ban complacency from my heart. While Parkland has never weathered a storm like this, it has seen enough severe hurricanes in its time to know something about recovery and what resiliency looks like when neighbors help one another. My prayer is that this institution of excellence will rise as a living monument to the very best in all of us. Where love conquers fear. Let us now make it so. As it states in bold letters above the main exit at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.
Member, First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Class of 2006
3/24/18 March Day Details
A group from FBC will leave at 11am from our O Street entrance (between 16th & 17th Streets) and walk together approximately 1.3 miles to 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (one of only 3 designated entrances to the event, and the one closest to the church.) All are welcome!
Note that DC DPS is emphatically encouraging participants to use mass transit on Saturday (instead of driving).