Teenagers speak out in support of Dreamers and gun control

Jeff vonKaenel

The kids have spoken. And have spoken well.

First, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) kids spoke out, making the case that they should not be held hostage as a bargaining chip in the ongoing immigration debate.

And now, high school students across the country are speaking out, passionately explaining that they should not be allowed to die in the crossfire of the gun control debate.

Since the vast majority of Americans support the DACA Dreamers, and the vast majority of Americans support banning assault rifles and enacting stricter gun regulations, the kids would like to know why we, the adults, can’t solve these problems.

They are not interested in hearing about the difficulties of dealing with a polarized political process. Nor should they be.

They are not sympathetic to legislators who are worried about losing a Republican primary or a general election if they don’t vote against gun control or if they support immigration reform. Nor should they be.

Our young people are asking, “What the hell is wrong with the adults of this country?”

Good question.

Many years ago, when I was a high school student, we asked our parents the same question. Why were they supporting politicians who would not end the war in Vietnam? All across America, U.S. foreign policy was discussed at the kitchen table, often heatedly.

One of the most insightful bits of parenting advice I ever received was that your kids may not listen to what you say, but they will always notice what you do.

It is one thing to say, “Do the right thing.” It is another to do it. It is one thing to say, “Treat everyone with respect.” It is another thing to do it. It is one thing to say, “Stand up for your principles even when it costs you.” It is another thing to do it.

It was hard for my father, a World War II veteran who went to college and medical school on the GI bill, to take a stand against the government. It was especially hard when those who were opposed to the war were being called anti-American dupes. Just as today, there are those who are saying that the kids supporting gun control are dupes.

At my home, it was taken for granted that I would always love my parents. But it was also true that I would have respected them less if they had not actively opposed the Vietnam War. And I would have respected them less if they had not voted for politicians fighting to end the war. Why? Because I would have thought my parents were not living up to the ideals and principles that they so repeatedly drilled into me.

I knew that my parents cared about what I thought of them, just as I care about what my children think of me. During the Vietnam War, millions of Americans turned against the war, not because of media coverage, not because of new insights into foreign policy, but because they listened to their children. They wanted to live up to their children’s expectations of them.

Their children gave them courage. Their children reminded them of the ideals and principles that they believed in.

Today, our children have spoken. Let’s hear their pleas. Let’s make them proud.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.