For David Hogg, the revolutionary change that the United States needs is going to happen through in-person conversations.

“The power from really getting involved in your community is understanding what actually does work because every community is different,” Hogg said. “If you’re able to really go there and humbly ask them what works, it’s a good way to learn … how to advocate with and not advocate for people in some kind of really problematic way.”

Hogg, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 and co-founder of March For Our Lives, spoke Tuesday night in a virtual webinar hosted by Northwestern College Democrats about the future of gun violence prevention and the power of young people to create change. He is currently a student at Harvard.

The Q&A began with Hogg telling the story of the day the shooting happened at his high school in Parkland, Florida, and how it led to the formation of March For Our Lives. Hogg, who initially saw himself as more of a journalist than an activist, filmed videos of his classmates talking about gun violence while in lockdown to create a record of the day.

“We as young people are on the front lines of this issue, unfortunately, so in the event that we did die in that classroom, that our voices would carry on,” Hogg said. “That maybe even if we were left behind, our bodies were left behind on that classroom floor, that our voices would hopefully carry on and create some kind of change in a country that so clearly needs it.”

Emphasizing the power of teenagers in creating change, Hogg claimed how the weakening of the National Rifle Association was directly due to teenagers writing a letter to the NRA challenging their questionable spending habits.

“The only reason why that was possible was because a bunch of frankly pissed off teenagers and young people got up and got out there and marched and yelled and walked out and voted,” Hogg said. “When we do that culture shifts and politicians see that, and then they get really scared that culture is shifting faster than politics. That's where things tend to start to really change.”

Hogg recognized the systemic inequalities that lead to gun violence in the United States, stating that the reason his hometown doesn’t have daily shootings isn’t because it has the best gun control laws, but rather because it has access to resources.

“Gun violence in the United States, the vast majority of the time, is a product of injustice,” Hogg said. “It’s a symptom of systemic racism. It’s a system of purposely corrupt and unjust systems that have been built up in this country to benefit few at the cost of the many.”

While speaking on efforts to pass gun violence prevention legislation, Hogg emphasized the importance of ending the filibuster. He stressed that a policy like universal background checks that is supported by roughly 90% of the American public should be able to pass through the Senate.

“If we want the American people to have faith in the political system, we must show them that it can work for them,” Hogg said. “I could care less if we’re working with Republicans or not if we’re passing this legislation, because ultimately, people are dying in the process.”

Hogg ended the webinar by emphasizing the importance of self-care when participating in activist work because movements don’t have an end date. He further stressed the necessity for each individual to take care of their physical and mental health to keep the movement going.

“What develops the sustainability and endurance that is necessary for us to do this – for, unfortunately, what will very likely be the years or decades it may take us – is community,” Hogg said. “It's the love that individuals share in between each other that we have through our friendships and our relationships. Ultimately, we have a group of people that we can talk to and that's been the most powerful thing for me.”

*Article thumbnail courtesy of NU College Democrats