This kid's one-minute speech puts the cost of gun violence in a gripping new light.

#NationalWalkoutDay was an incredible statement from students across the country. But we shouldn't have needed to have one in the first place.

We've heard horrifying stories of those whose lives were taken away by gun violence. And we need to hear those stories. But one student speaking near Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., eloquently reminded us on the day of the walkout that the world would have been far better off if those stories never had to exist at all:

"In an ideal world, the 20 first-graders and kindergartners who died at Sandy Hook would be in middle school today. ... The 32 students who died at Virginia Tech would be employed professionals, and the 17 victims from Stoneman Douglas would probably be eating lunch at school right now, and the only thing they'd be worrying about is a test for next period."

Those remarks given by student Michael Soloman are a heartbreaking reminder that the everyday, often mundane tasks we take for granted would be a blessing for the victims and families of those directly affected by gun violence.


Soloman's remarks are a powerful reminder not only of loss but what will never be.

Seeing the faces and names of those who have lost is an important reminder, but this particular speech is equally important in the sense that it flips the equation to articulate not only what was lost but what could have been.

"Personally, I'm proud to take part in a nationwide movement like the one we're participating in today," he said. "But we can all agree in that in an ideal world, none of us would be here."

We'll never know what these kids and young adults could have been if their lives hadn't been stolen from them. Some might have gone on to do great things. But even for those who simply led "average" lives, the impact is profound when put into a relatable context.

Photo by Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images.

Every student's life has been changed by the reality of gun violence, and millions who may never face a massacre must still grapple with its possibility.

It's becoming an increasingly normal practice for students to take part in school shooting drills. While there's obviously nothing as terrible as being a victim of gun violence, the mere fact that millions of students across the country must now seriously consider the possibility that they too could face a similar fate is an epidemic in its own right.

"Unfortunately, we live in a country where lawmakers are more concerned about their contributions from the NRA than they are about the lives of their own constituents," Soloman said to the crowd.

Generations of students before them have faced other daily threats, like nuclear war. Something like that is a very real, existential threat but one that probably feels more like a far-off idea. Gun violence, on the other hand, is something all too real and present in our lives today.

Pausing to weigh the lost potential of victims is a powerful reminder that everyone deserves the opportunity to live their fullest lives, something the threat of gun violence takes away from anyone it impacts.

We'll be hearing a lot from students, parents, teachers, and politicians about the need to curb violence in the coming days. That's very important. What we saw today is what our lives could be like in a world where we didn't have to spend any time worrying about the issue. The chance to be kids, regular students with regular problems and potential, is a right no one should be denied.

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Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

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