Making Waves

Emma González Has Become the Face of the Gun-Control Movement

González is a rising sophomore at New College of Florida.

By Pam Daniel June 27, 2019 Published in the July 2019 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Emma González, far right, after her March 2018 speech at March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.

With her buzzed hair and luminous brown eyes, the 19-year-old Parkland shooting survivor, a rising sophomore at New College of Florida, has become the unforgettable face of the gun-control movement. Just three days after the Feb. 14, 2018  shooting, Emma González delivered an impassioned speech at a Broward County rally, with a refrain the crowd picked up and chanted back: “We call B.S.!” [on lawmakers in thrall of the NRA]. She helped create the March for Our Lives demonstrations in March 2018, which drew more than a million people across the country and was one of the largest American protests ever. She continues to work with the organization, which is holding rallies and registering new young voters across the country.

Why We Love Her

Because she is more at ease in her own skin than most people decades older will ever be. Two weeks after the shooting, she wrote an essay for Harper's Bazaar that began: “My name is Emma González. I’m 18 years old, Cuban and bisexual.” She likes to quote Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Because although she’s admitted that she’s “deathly afraid” of people who threaten “the only way they want to talk is if we’re standing on the other end of their AR-15s,” she continues to stand up and speak out. “Adults like us when we have strong test scores, but they hate us when we have strong opinions,” she has said.

Because her voice is so powerful that 10 days after she started a Twitter account (Emma4Change), she had 1 million followers. Now close to 1.7 million—more than twice as many as follow the NRA—engage with her tweets, which mix information about gun violence with shout-outs to her favorite rock bands.

Because despite her instant and enormous fame, she has no interest in being a celebrity, declining most interviews, keeping her personal life private and quietly going about her studies at New College.

Because when her parents objected after she proposed shaving her head—an idea she says was prompted by the Florida heat—she created a PowerPoint presentation that cracked them up and won them over.

Because although she has bouts of terrible sadness and loss, she refuses to give up—on her own life, or on America itself. Everywhere she goes, she says, she sees people deciding to engage with politics and work for change, realizing “we are the checks and balances” on a government that refuses to act.

Because more than anything, her activism is driven by love. As she wrote in The New York Times, “Everything we’ve done and everything we will do, is for them [the slain students.] It’s for ourselves. It’s for every person who has gone through anything similar to this, for every person who hasn’t yet, for every person who never will.”

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