March 11 2018

In the aftermath of yet another horrific mass shooting in our nation: Keeping the families and students of the Parkland, Florida community in thought, in prayer, in reflection and in “the light.”

But let me focus these thoughts by honoring what we have heard from the families and students in their message to our nation’s politicians, and I’m paraphrasing: “We don’t want your prayers or your sympathies – we want your action to solve the problem.”

As a general rule, I’m an optimist about the ability and capacity of our nation to move along the right trajectory on matters of basic fairness and justice – even when these policy battles take years and decades to see movement.  But I admit to resorting to downright pessimism after the Sandy Hook shootings failed to result in any meaningful policy change, and the apparent spinelessness of a Congress under the grip of the NRA.

As I write these words, I hear that high school students across the nation – powered by social media – are organizing “walkouts” as a form of protest against Congress’ paralysis on addressing gun violence.  This is powerful, timely, and a critical use of voice for several reasons.  The first is that it provides a way for the students to speak clearly and compellingly to our nation’s elected officials in a single voice through a single action.  Secondly, it is a simple act that an individual can engage in locally, but feel attached to a national movement.

Thirdly – and this affirms why our foundation supports the voice and engagement of youth through civic activism to improve community wellness – our youth possess the ability to shame and embarrass our adult generation to join them in action.  When the students “walk out”, I hope their teachers and school administrators follow them out the door.  I certainly plan to “walk out” of whatever meeting I’m in at the very same time in symbolic support, and will invite any of our staff at our organization to do so as well.

Message to our nation’s young people:  Lead On — we will follow.




Click here to read a Chronicle of Philanthropy commentary by Robert K. Ross, MD, on what foundations can do in response to the Parkland shootings.

Click here to learn about the March 14 National School Walkout

Click here to learn about the March 24 National March for Our Lives On Washington


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