National Nonviolence Award given to David Hogg, March for Our Lives

    • Sep 30, 2022

David Hogg and the March For Our Lives foundation, an activist group that focuses on youth action against gun violence, received the National Nonviolence Award from JMU’s Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence on Saturday. Hogg is the second recipient of the award, after John Lewis in 2020.

“To be in the presence of people like John Lewis, in that way, is quite humbling,” Hogg said in his speech. “He said, as I heard, as I would come to hear it over and over again, that this is a marathon, not a sprint. And I hope through the stories and lessons that I am able to convey today, from my past five years of experience, you're able to gain that perspective.”

Peggy Plass, academic unit head of the Justice Studies department which oversees the Gandhi Center, said the award honors the work of Hogg and March For Our Lives, which fits the Center’s values and philosophy.

“They really make use of the strategies and methodologies of the civil rights movement in terms of the way that they have approached the problem of gun violence … things like education, civic engagement and direct action,” Plass said. “We see nonviolence in terms of their activism, but also the cause with which they concern themselves is one that's related to non violence.”

March For Our Lives was founded by Hogg and a group of then-high schoolers, according to its website, after a 2018 mass shooting at their school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida — resulting in the death of 17 people. 

Marches and school walkouts were organized by students across the country in support of the cause. Since then, the organization has done more outreach to support youth involvement in politics with voter registration events across the country. 

“We could show those young people that their vote actually does matter, and that they don't want you to vote because they know that there is power in that,” Hogg said in his speech. “...If it happens, it's going to be because you all make it happen.”

The movement’s commitment to empowering young people resonated with those in the Gandhi Center, Plass said. They kept their audience of college students in mind when considering Hogg for the award.

“We felt it was especially important or appropriate for JMU because it is a young person's movement,” Plass said. “So, we hope that part of this will be aspirational. We're hoping that people will attend his talk and think about that too, about how it's possible.”

Rallies and events were organized nationwide after the 2018 shooting. JMU senior Camden Gillespie was among the many students who attended local marches to make their voices heard. She went to the first March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., back in 2018.

“I've been following David Hogg on social media since the Parkland shooting,” Gillespie said, “and his activism has been truly inspiring. His positivity and his willingness to continue to work towards something that he's passionate for, is really admirable.”

Keith May, the former chair of the Gandhi Center, said its original mission was to increase awareness of peace initiatives for the local community. The Gandhi Center now focuses more on connecting students with tools for their own social action, which ties into the reasons the National Nonviolence Award was started.

“[The award] is for two purposes,” May said. “One is honoring someone who's done some fantastic work, but the other is creating more awareness of the work that they're doing”

Plass and May both spoke about the importance of using the Center to connect to JMU students.

“That's always our goal,” May said. “To inspire people to do good in this world.”

Contact Lizzie Stone at stone3em@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.

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