(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Michelle Obama pens tweet praising Parkland students: "We're behind you"

Obama's message of support comes as conservatives and conspiracy theories seek to discredit student activists


Rachel Leah
February 22, 2018 6:12PM (UTC)

As President Donald Trump suggests arming certain teachers to combat the prevalence of school shootings and conservatives on social media mock teenage survivors of the Florida rampage, former first lady Michelle Obama penned a message of support to the Parkland students fighting for gun reform and safety.

She wrote on Twitter: "I’m in total awe of the extraordinary students in Florida. Like every movement for progress in our history, gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance. But @barackobama and I believe in you, we’re proud of you, and we’re behind you every step of the way."

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It was a sobering note in the haze of gun debate that has been front and center in the news, on social media and in politics, since suspect Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and gunned down 17 people. While Republican lawmakers and conservatives predictably offered their "thoughts and prayers," Parkland students have demonstrated their tenacity to change the narrative. They are speaking up, staging school walkouts and demanding politicians address gun regulations so that one of the deadliest school shootings in America is also one of the last.

Michelle's words were significant, but unsurprising. During Barack Obama's tenure, Michelle repeatedly took on youth activism causes, most notably, her global education initiative "Let Girls Learn," which aimed to provide access to 62 million girls who face barriers to education. President Obama also repeatedly advocated for gun safety laws in speeches and proposed measures that were thwarted by a Republican majority in Congress.

It is a message he doubled down on last week, when the former president offered his own tweet of support for the victims of the Parkland shooting, who have urged lawmakers to enact reasonable gun regulations. Obama called for "long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want." He reminded the nation that "we are not powerless" and "Caring for our kids is our first job."

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But despite the momentum of the Parkland survivors and despite the horrific shooting their school and community endured, the students have faced a barrage of subsequent attacks and blows. Florida's House of Representatives voted down a motion to even discuss a ban on assault weapons, among them the AR-15 — the type of gun Cruz allegedly used — even as Parkland students looked on in the gallery.

And while the Florida high school students have made numerous television appearances calling for gun regulations, calling for any response to the school shootings that are devastatingly common in America, conservatives have challenged their intentions, including one former Florida aide who described these students not as victims but as "actors." Online campaigns to discredit the student activists have been just as brutal.

But the young survivors have remained steadfast, organizing rallies in Florida and inspiring walkouts across the country, all while continuing to push lawmakers to act. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., declared that high school students were "leading a revolution," as student protests mounted in Washington Wednesday.

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There is certainly no clear or easy pathway forward for the high school students advocating for measures to make America's schools safer, but at the very least, Michelle Obama is on their side.


Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah.

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