Activist and author David Hogg spoke about gun violence, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and student empowerment February 8 to show students at Holliston High School that they have a voice.
¨A parent from our community reached out to me, he works for a company that promotes public figures that travel around the country to speak. The parent found out that Hogg was coming to Massachusetts to collect an award,¨ said vice principal Ms. Anne Connoni. “When we got the information we thought that it was going to be a great opportunity for us to have a national speaker come in and talk about student empowerment.”
After 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School February 14, 2018, Hogg a survivor of the shooting began speaking about the event and gun violence to raise student voices so that the next generation in Congress represented the population instead of multi-billion dollar corporations. He told the students of HHS about the peaceful rallies such as the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. that he had helped to organize in the spring of 2018 to verbally fight against the NRA and bring awareness to gun violence.
According to Hogg, the NRA violates gun safety policies and uses fear tactics to increase the sale of weapons.
The public figure spoke about many of his classmates, but one student that he focused on was Joaquin Oliver. Oliver´s family had fled Venezuela to escape the violence there only to move to Florida’s safest community that would one day take Oliver´s life away.
“Manny [Oliver’s father] didn’t know that the very violence that he fled from when he left Venezuela, he didn’t realize that violence is in America, too, and that it would eventually take his son in a community that was rated eight years straight in the state of Florida as the safest community,” Hogg said.
Hogg tried to inspire students by talking about how the community could learn from incidents and create a solution.
“Even though, at the end of the day, we all sink to the bottom, the ripples that we create remain at the surface,” said Hogg. “Those ripples can turn into a wave. Those ripples can be turned into a tsunami that changes the shoreline of this issue in America because even if these people aren’t here, they live on within us,.”
Students like sophomore Daniel Biundo strongly disagreed with the path of the speech and started to question the legitimacy of the speech when it took a political turn.
¨This wasn’t a discussion. This was a one-sided political speech, and that’s where the problem for me lies,¨ said Biundo in an interview on Boston 25 News that aired February 11, 2019.
After the speech, Biundo created a petition to, “bring in a more conservative speaker to let both sides of the debate be heard,¨ he said in the Boston 25 News interview.
Many students complained that they weren’t informed about Hogg´s appearance at the school soon enough which caused them to have a negative viewpoint of the speech.
Sophomore Nikolai Anderson said, ¨in my opinion I do not believe that we should have another public speaker. Hogg spoke about other things besides his experience in Parkland. He occasionally went off topic and caused controversy. He spoke about abortion and immigration.¨
Although immigration was discussed in the speech, the topic of abortion was never raised.
After coming out of the auditorium, many students expressed the belief that the speech had not served its purpose. They believed that other than the NRA, mental health also factored into school shootings.
¨Hogg should have spoke about being a school shooting survivor. School shootings, especially those caused by kids that attend the school, have a lot to do with mental health. I just wish he spoke about how our actions impact others and can lead to tragedies,¨ sophomore Rosa Stalzer said.
Others said that Hogg was a speaker that did not focus on mental health so his speech delivered the message he stands for.
¨He never claimed to be aimed at mental health. He has a different purpose, to talk about the political aspect of gun violence. When it comes to his personal story, it may have been hard for him to talk about it. Overall I think he did justice to the topic,¨ said sophomore Shreya Modi.
¨He didn’t talk about his personal experience as much but he did incorporate statistical data, and I think the course of the speech was justified due to his background,¨ said Modi.
¨We know that he has a lot of platforms that he goes up and speaks about. Hogg wrote a book about the shooting and raising student voices, so the focus of the speech was geared towards student empowerment,¨ said Ms. Connoni, ¨just because you’re young doesn’t mean that you can´t get involved and raise your voice.¨
featured image: Metrowest Daily News