Press Release After the Day
of National Concern, 1997
On Thursday, November 6, 1997, in schools across America, young people
made a strong collective statement renouncing the violent use of guns.
Students from New York, Bridgeport, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Miami,
Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Oakland, Richmond, the District of Columbia,
and hundreds of communities in between signed a simple and voluntary Pledge:
"I promise that I will never carry a gun to school; I will never
use a gun to settle a dispute; and I will use my influence with my friends
to keep them from using guns to settle disputes."
The Pledge is followed by an acknowledgment of the power of this decision:
"My individual choices and actions, when multiplied by those of young
people throughout the country, will make a difference. Together, by honoring
this pledge, we can reverse the violence and grow up in safety."
The initiative grew out of a chance meeting in a hallway in the Hart
Senate Office Building between then-Senator Bill Bradley and Mary Lewis
Grow, who initiated the idea. In 1996, Senator Bradley, who serves as
Honorary Chair of the observance, introduced a bipartisan Senate Resolution
calling for a Day of National Concern about Young People and Gun Violence
and a national distribution, on that day, of the Student Pledge Against
In 1997, Senators Murray (D-WA) and Kempthorne (R-ID) sponsored
the Senate Resolution, which, like the previous year's, passed by unanimous
The White House issued a proclamation calling for November 6 to
be observed as a Day of National Concern about Young People and Gun Violence.
Among places highlighting Thursday's observance:
- Washington State: In Washington State, more than 120 schools made
a commitment to participation in the Student Pledge. On Thursday, Seattle's
Superintendent of Schools, John Stanford, led a Peace March, with student
representatives coming to Seattle from all over the state.
- Richmond, Virginia: In Richmond, the Mayor and a number of agencies
and organizations came together to coordinate their activities. The
Richmond Education Association donated books appropriate to the theme
to each of the public schools and to all the public libraries in the
city. Various schools had speakers and assemblies and the Public Libraries
displayed the donated books and related materials. All of the City's
schools distributed the Pledge, and the Richmond Housing Authority offered
pledge signing opportunities in the Housing Communities. Initiative
for the City-wide observance came from Richmond's Youth Services Commission.
- Chicago: From the Chicago Police Department, an Investigator
who worked on the observance said that in twenty-two years of Police
work, she had rarely been part of something that had been more wonderful.
The radio music station listened to by most Chicago Teens donated more
than an hour of air time to a call-in show that was beamed into schools
and throughout the city. During that time, students heard from Mayor
Richard Daley, who led the students in oral recitation of the Pledge
Against Gun Violence (which they had also recieved in written form),
from both of Illinois' U.S. Senators: Carol Mosely-Braun and Richard
Durbin, from Superintendent of Schools Paul Valaas, Police
Superintendent Matt Rodriguez, and from two students who talked
movingly about their own reasons for wanting their peers to turn away
from gun violence. One had lost a brother to gunfire. The program ended
with former police officer Mike Robbins, founder of H.E.L.P. for
Survivors. Robbins, shot a number of times in the line of duty,
talked about his conversion from someone who had always looked on punishment
and prosecution as the answer to crime and violence to someone who wanted
to stress prevention and getting young people to take responsibility
for their individual decisions. Robbins was honored, along with Jim
Brady, at the last Democratic National Convention. In 1996, Chicago
distributed the Pledge in all its public schools. In 1997, they extended
the observance to include parochial and private schools.
- District of Columbia: In Washington, DC Mayor Barry began the District
schools' observance of the Day of National Concern with his 9:00 a.m.
appearance at a local school, Elliot Junior High School, for an assembly
program. Middle schools and high schools will call the total numbers
of their students signing the Pledge to Student Council Leaders, who
relayed the totals to the Chief Executive Officer of the District's
schools, General Julius Becton.
- Milwaukee: In Milwaukee, the Chief of Police attended
one of various assemblies held around the city, and listened to the
essays and letters students had written him with their thoughts about
how to reverse gun violence. Then he replied to the students, taking
their thoughts into his response. An African story-teller, Olusegun
Sijuwade, told traditional stories about non-violence and led discussions
with students about gun violence and the significance of their personal
- In Birmingham, Alabama, more than 10,000 students signed the
- Santa Clara County, California: The Pledge launched county-wide
distribution of the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence in all thirty-three
of the County's districts.
- Oakland, California: Oakland chose to distribute the Student Pledge
to its students a week early so that Pledge Day could be a celebration
of its 53,000 students who signed the pledge.
- In Seattle, School Superintendent John Stanford led a Peace
March attended by students from all over the state. More than 120 schools
from around the state participated in the Day's events.
- In Connecticut, the State's Attorney General appeared
at a middle school to lead sudents through the Pledge and to show his
support for the national day.
Planning for the 1998 Day of National Concern about Young People and
Gun Violence has represented the best in public-private partnerships.
While hundreds of volunteers around the country have mobilized to do most
of the organizing, they have been assisted by a number of public officials,
notably Governor Gary Locke of Washington State, Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton
of Minneapolis, Minnesota's Attorney General Skip Humphrey, Seattle's
Superintendent of Schools, John Stanford and a number of state commissioners
Individuals and groups from around the country have urged annual repetitions
of the Day of Concern. As Dr. Enid Margolies of the New York City Public
Schools has said: "It's too important not to make this an annual
event. If we want to change behavior, we need repetition and reinforcement.
Young people often think that their individual decisions don't make any
difference. But by offering students the chance to take the Pledge Against
Gun Violence together by the millions, we may help them realize the power