“Why Do I have To March For My Life?”
And Other Winning Essays in the 2018 Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest
A Message from the President of Americans Against Gun Violence
In March of this year, we announced our first annual Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest, open to all high school students in the United States and its territories. The prompt for the contest was a statement made by the late Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on June 11, 1968:
The time has now come that we must adopt stringent gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country in the world.
Our goals in sponsoring the essay contest were to help sustain the momentum generated by high school gun control activists in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February of this year; to provide historical perspective for the students and help them focus their activism; and to foster and reward critical thinking on the gun violence issue among other U.S. high school age youth. As an incentive for students to enter the contest, we announced that we would be giving out a total of $15,000 in awards to the 12 contest winners.
The deadline for students to enter the contest was May 6, which turned out to be 12 days before the most recent high profile mass shooting on a high school campus in Santa Fe, Texas. Over 30 Americans Against Gun Violence supporters, blinded to any student identifying information, took part in reading and rating the students’ essays, and we made the final decision concerning the 12 contest winners last week.
It’s been my pleasure over the past week to contact and congratulate the winners of this year’s essay contest. The students’ responses have been gratifying.
A student winner who submitted an essay concerning her experience as a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School replied:
“I was overjoyed to find out that I was one of the winners in the 2018 Americans Against Gun Violence National High School Essay Contest.”
A student winner from Montgomery County, Maryland, wrote:
“Thank you so much! I’m beyond excited and so incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity. The essay contest was very empowering and allowed me to reflect on my own values and thoughts considering gun violence.”
Other students who I contacted by email replied:
“Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to receive this award. I will seek the change we need as part of my generation!”
“Thank you for the work you do and for selecting me as one of the 2018 Essay Contest Winners. The prize money will help me pay my tuition at UC Berkeley.”
“Thank you so much! I appreciate all that you do. I would love to stay in the loop with Americans Against Gun Violence.”
The winning essays themselves are posted on the In The News page of the this website. Here are some excerpts from the essays:
“Over 1,600 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, the United States has still been unable to pass significant gun control laws….Modernized gun reform laws are long overdue in our nation, and it is time for the US to catch up to the contemporary laws of Canada, Britain, Norway, and countless other countries.”
“We’re scared, we’re angry, and we want change…Legislation hasn’t changed since