By Grace McFadden
On Monday, September 30, the Leadership Legacy Speaker Series hosted March For Our Lives co-founder and youth activist Cameron Kasky in a conversation about his work within the gun reform sphere, his life outside of advocacy, and what it means to be an activist today.
The night began with opening remarks from Kasky, and then moved on to a discussion moderated by Chris Vials, a professor of American Studies at UConn.
This talk was part of the Leadership Legacy Speaker Series, which in the past has hosted such names as Danielle Feinberg, the Director of Photography and Lighting for Pixar, and David Brooks, a journalist notable for his contributions to NPR, PBS Newshour and the New York Times.
Kasky began his journey as an activist when he survived the Parkland Fla. shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 and became part of the March For Our Lives movement, a political movement that strives to reduce gun violence.
While March For Our Lives looks to decrease gun violence everywhere, the impetus for the creation of their movement was the influx of school shootings in the past decade. Now a freshman at Columbia University, he focused much of his talk on his experiences of being an activist in the current political climate.
According to Kasky, “activism is a cesspool right now.” He bemoaned what he called “slacktivism,” which he described as a dilution of real social change by the illusion of having your voice heard on social media.
“Social change is confusing. There are the people who think that tweeting is enough, and that going online and talking about how President Trump is orange is making a difference; and there are the people out there who are actually working every single day with no recognition, putting their whole lives aside for something they believe in,” Kasky said of the political climate today.
He also took a critical view of his own prior activism, specifically of his punditry and the derisiveness he feels he contributed to. Kasky mentioned that he leaned too heavily into the fact that he was young as an activist, and that he didn’t want others to make that same mistake.
These objections struck a chord with the audience, especially coming from someone with so much experience in the field of activism. Kasky left March For Our Lives late last year, but he continues to be involved in other activism, specifically with mental health advocacy.
Kempton Campbell, a first semester political science and human rights double major, was inspired by Kasky’s activism and passion for gun reform.
“I came to this event because Cameron Kasky is someone that obviously I’ve followed for a while, ever since Marjory Stoneman Douglas happened. He’s someone who I think is a great voice for the youth in our society, especially when it comes to gun control and gun reform,” Campbell said. “Something that I thought for a long time is how the youth will change our current political climate. And he said that there are smart people in society who are young, and there are smart people who are older, and on the other hand, there are dumb people in society who are both old and young.”