This past Monday, Parkland shooting survivor and activist David Hogg spoke at UConn as part of the 2019 Youth for Change Metanoia. The lecture was perfect timing, just a couple weeks after the House of Representatives passed the first major gun violence bill in decades that would require universal background checks. Hogg was introduced by Congressman Joe Courtney to the audience in the Student Union Theater as an individual who is “as inspiring as it gets.”
No matter what side of the gun reform debate you’re on, David Hogg is undeniably an exemplary example of the power of youth activism. Motivated by the cries of his sister who had lost four friends in the Parkland shooting on February 14, 2018, he immediately set out to make a change. Hogg survived an extremely traumatic event and has been able to use his experiences to spread a message about a topic that is highly valued by young people today. In fact, gun violence/school shootings in the #1 voting issue for Americans 18-29 years old. Hogg, a natural public speaker, spoke with a passion and fire that is surely the future of gun reform in the United States, slamming the NRA with one-liners followed by clapping from the audience. He touched on many issues that all tie into the gun reform debate, such as mental health, police brutality, the prison system, media representation, and voting.
Mental health is often at the forefront of the school shooting debate. Hogg spoke about the lack of focus on mental health in schools, citing that this generation reports the highest levels of anxiety and depression than any other generation. He also referred to toxic masculinity as a fundamental issue that prevents students from seeking help in the first place. He reminded the crowd that society stigmatizes mental illness by saying that the only mentally ill people are school shooters. Hogg doesn’t think that eliminating the stigma around mental health will stop mass shootings, but he believes that it’s definitely an important place to start.
Hogg also attacked how the media reports on shootings differently. He said that shootings affecting white people get plenty of reporting, but black and brown communities are often overlooked. He said that skin color and ethnicity correlates to how the shooter is portrayed to the public; white=mentally ill, black=criminal, Middle Eastern=terrorist, and Hispanic=immigrant. The media systemically plays into institutional racism, and Hogg used this to explain that these institutionalized notions of issues like race are the real issue. He said that in a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist; we have to be anti-racism. He elaborated by saying that political polarization makes us weak because it allows us to attack individuals of evil, not systems of evil. Ending these issues, as Hogg said, is all possible by doing one thing: voting.
Voting is of utmost importance to David Hogg. He spoke passionately about the lack of advertising from the government about the importance of voting. He said that Congress doesn’t care about youth that aren’t legal to vote because they don’t have the power to vote them out. He also acknowledged how backwards it is that boys receive draft cards on their 18th birthday rather than a voter registration form. Hogg frequently attacked Congress throughout his speech, citing that “Congress invests 99% of energy into helping 1%, and 1% into helping the 99%.” He stressed the importance of youth voting and the effect that it has on our country, sharing that we voted out more NRA-backed politicians in the past midterm election than ever before in history.
To say that David Hogg is only a gun reform activist would be ignoring the truth. He uses his platform as a school shooting survivor to speak about all kinds of issues that impact young generations today. He was a great person to speak at the Youth for Change Metanoia, a “discussion of the most pressing issues facing young people today” (Uconn Metanoia) and what we can do about them. Hogg’s lecture was a refreshing point of view on subjects that we often only hear talked about by members of Congress and the media. All in all, don’t be surprised if you see David Hogg on the ballot at some point in the future.