Forces for Unity to Keep our Kids Safe

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was honored by Sandy Hook Promise last night as a “Promise Champion” for her leadership on solutions like the STOP School Violence Act to improve school safety, prevent school violence before it takes place, and build stronger communities. The Chair praised Sandy Hook for being “forces for unity,” and said “We cannot change the ending alone. It takes each one of us doing our part. It’s on us– all of us.”

Chair McMorris Rodgers’s Remarks as Prepared:

I start every morning by helping my husband get our three kids off to school. Some mornings are more hectic than others but more than once, I’ve paused and thought about the possibility that could be the last time I see them. It shouldn’t be this way.

School should be a place of learning where our children make friends, find their talents, and reach their full potential. We must be having the courageous conversations about what programs and solutions work to keep them safe.

The parents of Sandy Hook Promise are true leaders in this effort by turning unspeakable grief into action to ensure no parent has to experience the heartbreaking loss of a child.”

Trust was broken at Sandy Hook, in Parkland, Florida, in Santa Fe, Texas, and in the communities of Columbine, Freeman High School in my district, and too many others. When this trust is broken, our communities are left broken, too.

In these moments, we need to take a collective step back, and ask the question, “Why?”

That’s exactly what I did in my own community after the school shooting at Freeman, and after we tragically lost a number of young people to suicide. We came together with students, local superintendents, principals, and law enforcement officers — and we asked the questions, ‘Why?’ ‘What’s causing our young people to feel so lost or alone?’ And worse, what’s leading them to choose violence?’

These questions don’t have easy answers– but as we keep having courageous conversations with one another, I’m hopeful that we’ll have more ideas like Sheriff Rutherford’s STOP School Violence Act that is now law–ideas that will help our local communities prevent, recognize, and respond to violence.  

That’s why I’m also grateful for the work and leadership of Sandy Hook Promise. Thank you for being forces for unity. You are equipping students and schools to know the warning signs of violence and suicide. You are helping parents, and training schools to intervene before it’s too late. And, you are encouraging kids to ‘Start with Hello,’ reach out, and be more inclusive.

Similar to your “Start with Hello” program,  I’ve hosted a number of Unity Dinners in my community to restore trust and bring healing where we are divided.

Because a shared meal is a shared life, we gather around the dinner table and break down barriers between people who may not always agree.One conversation leads to another, and by the end of the evening we’ve reached out beyond our comfort zone, built trust and new relationships.

To be examples to our kids, I’m challenging others to do the same To reach out to people who seem stressed, who they might not agree with, or might not otherwise spend time with.

Which reminds me of the quote. ‘If you want to travel fast, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.’

Thank you Sandy Hook Promise for bringing us together. I’m humbled to be your partner for change.