Emma Gonzales didn’t start her activism when she was four years old. She hasn’t won a million awards, hasn’t travelled around the world speaking at UN conferences.
But this is what makes her so relatable, so inspiring. Emma, an American 20 year old, was until a short while ago, a normal teenager, just like you and me. At most, she was active in class discussions and was President of her school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).
But then, on the 14th of February 2018, her life took a drastic turn. During that afternoon, at her high school (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in the U.S.A.) a 19 year old walked into the school and killed 17 of her fellow students and teachers, and 15 others were injured.
“Six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15, and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice. Aaron Feis would never call Kyra "miss sunshine," Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother Ryan,”- Emma Gonzales
And so, Emma along with some of her classmates decided that they had to act. Just three days after the shooting, Emma and some of her fellow students spoke at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale. She delivered a powerful speech, calling for gun control laws, which went viral.
“If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars.”
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA (National Rifle Association) telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS... They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS”
But she didn’t just stop with the speech.
A few days after the shooting, Emma, alongside 20 of her fellow students, worked to launch the Never Again movement which advocates for tighter regulations to prevent gun violence.
The students also organised the March for Our Lives, a protest which took place on the 24th of March 2018, in Washington DC and 880 other places around the U.S.A and the world. The protest called for legislation to prevent gun violence and was one of the biggest youth-led protests in the U.S, with over 1.2 million people attending.
The protest had several impacts. 16 days after the March for Our lives protest, Florida’s governor Rick Scott signed a bill which raised the age for buying a firearm in Florida from 18 to 21.
Emma knew that something was wrong with our world. She knew that what happened in her high school had to stop. She knew that she had to fight to stop these mass shootings, which have killed so many people. She knew that she had to fight for tougher gun control laws.
And so this is exactly what she did. She didn’t sit back and leave it to someone else to try and change the world. To try and make it a safer, better place. She did it herself.
We all look at the world now and see it falling to pieces. Personally, I feel a bit helpless because there are so many awful things happening. But then I read about people like Emma who took things into her own hands. And it gives me hope, her story makes me think “If she can do it, why can’t I? Why can’t we?”
Now I want to ask you, what can you do to change the world? What is something that’s affecting your life that needs to change? Because Emma’s story teaches us that anyone, no matter who they are, can truly make a difference.
“Every moment is an organising opportunity, every person a potential activist and every minute a chance to change the world” Dolores Huerta