For all of the activism, political rallying and advocating that David Hogg takes part in, some people forget that he is still just an 18 year old, the same age or younger than the students here at the University of Connecticut. However, as Hogg later discussed in his event at the Student Union Theater last night, the whole point of his work and the Never Again movement is that he and his fellow founders are able to stand up for our rights and make change, even at a young age. As part of this year’s Metanoia: Youth for Change, Hogg shared some insight on how the younger generation can take part in activism and work with the older generations in order to combat gun violence and to work towards political engagement and government accountability.
“You can interact more,” Hogg said at one point. “I don’t bite, unless you’re a Congressman.” That’s how you could tell he was a college kid.
After a personal dinner reception in which Hogg spoke with chosen UConn students who had submitted an insightful question to ask, Wawa Gatheru of the Metanoia Steering Committee and Congressman Joe Courtney prefaced Hogg’s talk. The teen thanked the university for helping to honor the memory of Alex Schachter, a victim of the shooting who had wished to attend the school in the future.
Even before the unforgettable events of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Hogg had already begun to investigate an area of concern that he targets with his activism: the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“I thought, that’s so weird that they say that they support gun owners and protecting them… but I don’t see any accountability for these incredibly dangerous arms manufacturers that are able to sell incredibly unsafe weapons,” Hogg said about when he had learned in his research for his speech and debate class that it is illegal for government-funded research to investigate the effectiveness of gun control laws, universal background checks and the like, as well as to sue gun manufacturers “because of laws that the NRA had pushed for.”
In his chilling recount of the Valentine’s Day shooting, Hogg shared how he and his classmates had no idea if they were going to survive. He sought to explain to his sister, who had lost four friends, why this level of violence is continuously able to occur in America, and thus, was inspired to share with the youth of the country the information that is often withheld from them. After marching in Washington D.C. with the other March for Our Lives movement founders, he discovered the power that the youth and numbers had, and what needed to be done in order to mobilize the younger generation.
“Young people turnout is disproportionately low because of rampant voter suppression,” Hogg said. “There’s a reason why in our civics classes why we’re not taught what an absentee ballot is. There’s a reason why we are automatically drafted in war but not sent our voter registration card on our 18th birthday, which would be the best birthday gift ever.”
One of Hogg’s biggest points was to reiterate that fighting for common sense gun control should be a nonpartisan issue, as he and other like-minded activists believe in the safety of students, not in “taking away guns from responsible gun owners.” Action must be taken in some form.
“I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, I don’t care if you’re a Republican,” Hogg said. “I care if you keep your word.”
“I believe he taught us about how to advocate for something we really want to change in society,” Xingyi Chen, a fourth-semester finance major, said. “ So, no matter how wealthy we are, what kind of skin we have, whether we have authority and power or not, the world counts on us.”
Hogg closed out his talk with a call to action to both our government officials as well as our generation.
“Even if you don’t agree with me, work with us to end this issue,” Hogg said. “There is more polarization than ever before, and it makes us weak. We should work to attack the sources of evil, not individuals of evil.”
He mentioned many things that we don’t talk about but should, from mental health to toxic masculinity, another one of his talking points was the unequal representation and coverage that minorities receive in the media, especially concerning the gun violence in their communities. Hogg explained that getting your friends to care about something is the first step to making change.
“I was entirely captivated by David Hogg’s speech,” John Leahy, a second-semester and computer science and engineering major, said. “[It] was so powerful, and his enthusiasm was completely infectious. When it came to the question and answer segment, it became clear just how knowledgeable he is on the subjects brought up. He is an inspiration for everyone who wants to make a change in the world.”
“What freedom looks like is every person having a say in our government,” Hogg said.
Hollie Lao is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.