I was privileged to attend the March for Our Lives in DC yesterday. My daughter was working and could not accompany me. Much has been written about the event already but I wanted to relay a few personal observations.
Logistics: Only in America!
The event was extremely well organized from a logistics point of view. Lots of volunteers were guiding participants from Metro stations to the site of the march. Many streets around the Mall were blocked off. T-shirt and other vendors had badges authorizing them to be there. There were lots of portable toilets and water stations around. Military trucks were blocking streets a few blocks North, I guess to protect against a Nice-style attack. Small ambulances were there to reach into the crowd if needed. Some Metro stations were closed to prevent overcrowding in escalators and tracks. There were large screens and impressive sound systems to broadcast speeches and entertainment. Bottom line, the local governments, Metro and the event organizers worked together flawlessly to help crowds move smoothly and create a safe environment. To me, this is an exceptional example of democracy at work, and of the commitment to freedom of expression.
The program of speakers, singers and short videos also demonstrated a level of sophistication that is only found in the United States. We know that celebrities contributed significant money to the organization of the event and it showed. The program included about 20 speakers, all high-schoolers or younger. Entertainers included Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Common, Vic Mensa, Andra Day, Miley Cyrus, Lin Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. I can’t say that I recognized them all but the younger crowd definitely did. Many younger marchers knew the songs and were singing along. I am sure there is a marketing angle to this, as there is to everything in this country. Still, I enjoyed these talented artists and the live music.
Some short “high production value” videos were presented between speeches and entertainment, all narrated by high-schoolers. Cogent, smart, well made! The speakers included young folks from Florida but also from Chicago and other cities affected by gun violence. Smart! Naomi Wadler, an eleven year old girl from Alexandria, Virginia spoke on behalf of African-American women who were victims of gun violence whose stories aren’t told. I am sure that professionals were behind the student but it did not take anything away from them, it channeled their energy and made it better and more effective.
In the end, everyone was waiting for Emma Gonzalez’ speech. She was last and she did not disappoint. All these kids (sounds pejorative to say kids, I know) are so articulate but Emma is in a class by herself. I went through Twitter last night and folks were calling for her to run for President! Her bold personality, poise, honesty, sincerity and authenticity gave me goose bumps. After reading the names of the MSD victims, Emma paused and stood still. The crowd went silent too. I have never heard such silence while surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. Not a sneeze, not a cough, not a murmur. One minute, two minutes… the silence became unbearable but also inescapable… four minutes, five minutes. Then she finished her speech. Six minutes and twenty seconds was the length of the attack on her school in Florida. It felt like an eternity. If you can, click on the link and watch the speech for yourself.