Tragedy didn’t have the last word when Cameron Kasky and his classmates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, experienced one of the worst school shootings in America last February.
Instead, the students became part of a national movement to promote dialogue and change. On Monday, Feb. 25, Kasky—activist and cofounder of March for Our Lives—will join George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera to continue the conversation with students and community members at its biannual Freedom and Learning Forum.
“The most important thing to talk about right now, with the big election coming up, is not getting stuck in your own personal bubble and surrounding yourself with people who echo your own thoughts and isolate you from understanding the people around you,” said Kasky.
That isolation and the mindset that those with differing views are wrong also prevent people from knowing what’s truly happening in the country, growing personally and furthering the political process, he said.
“At the end of the day, [people you disagree with are] still going to be there, and they’re still going to vote, so the best thing you can do is really try and engage them.”
Gun control is one of many issues Kasky feels is important to discuss because it affects people nationwide. His experiences in Parkland motivated him to deliver the message for the first time last year and to continue to do so today.
“People will talk about all the things they want from the government, and then they don’t go the extra mile to explain how they think [the government] should be doing that,” he said. “We’re getting a generation of people who are discussing problems but not solutions.”
Kasky hopes to help change that.
Mason’s Freedom and Learning Forum, an interactive dialogue series that emphasizes that freedom and learning are mutually interdependent, is an ideal place to continue these discussions that are beneficial for students and the community at large, he said.
“It’s so easy, especially on a college campus, to feel as though you’ve got it all figured out and you know exactly what’s going on,” Kasky said. But there can be a danger in remaining in that framework because it could stop people from seeing changes in society and really understanding what’s happening culturally and politically, he said.
Whether the topic is gun control or anything else, “we need to open up respectful dialogue about it because the more we mud-sling, the more we’re going to have division,” Kasky said.
Monday’s program includes a fireside chat with Kasky and Cabrera, followed by an open Q&A for attendees that will be led by Cabrera and members of Mason’s faculty. For more information and to register for the Freedom and Learning Forum, visit lead.gmu.edu/freedom.