Student-led activism and demonstrations are exploding all over the US after a mass shooting in a Florida school killed 17 students and staff this month.
This is unusual. Mass shootings have occurred far too often in recent US history, but without the following outcry and eloquent activism from its survivors. That’s not happening with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida.
Instead, a nationwide rally to demand an end to gun violence is scheduled for March 24; they’ve gotten several companies to part ways with powerful gun lobbyist group the National Rifle Association; they shut down Republican Senator Marco Rubio at a recent town hall bout his record and rhetoric on gun laws.
They’re winning the hearts and mind of the American public.
But what does First Lady Melania Trump, who has declared children as her official agenda, think about all this?
In a luncheon at the White House yesterday, Melania said: “I have been heartened to see children across this country using their voices to speak out and try to create change.”
“They’re our future and they deserve a voice.”
It’s heartening to see Melania, who has mostly shied away from public remarks for more than a year, throw her support on what’s probably the biggest issue students are facing today.
Her husband, US President Donald Trump has also backed the student protesters, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“That’s the reason why he had a number of them here at the White House just last week,” she said, the New York Times reported.
Whether or not this will translate into change in government policies like the ones student activists are pushing for – such as limiting access to firearms, a legislative bill to debate gun issues – remains to be seen.
The president has, in recent days, pushed for something close to the opposite, such as putting more firearms in schools by a proposal to incentivize trained teachers to take up arms as a solution to active shooting in schools. The White House has not come up with a more detailed policy initiative yet.
Melania too has provided little details on how to address school safety, though she’s showing a willingness to address it.
“As a parent, I cannot imagine the kind of grief and tragedy like that brings,” Melania said.
She did stress that adults should take the lead in monitoring children’s behaviour on social media on Monday.
“As I have said before, it is important that, as adults, we take the lead and the responsibility in helping our children manage the many issues they are facing today.”
“This means encouraging positive habits with social media and technology, even limiting time online and understanding the content they are exposed to on a daily basis.”
It’s a small but valid suggestion. Yet, the truth remains: A whole lot more need to be done to fix the gun epidemic, something that a weak statement of support from the First Lady simply can’t.