The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

Today, on Martin Luther King Day, we honor the passing on Thursday of a civil rights hero, James A. Hood, who integrated the University of Alabama in 1963 together with a fellow student Vivian Malone. This seminal moment when they entered the university to defend civil rights became known as the "stand in the schoolhouse door".

All around the world, every day, the school bell rings. Children come into their classrooms, and seek the smile of their teacher, ready for the promise of a new day, to learn to read, write, think and grow. We hold these images as metaphors for the precious rights that belong to all children, as a symbol of our democracy which provides sanctuary for our children to become who they want to be, to dream dreams that can be fulfilled by their education.

And yet, on the dread day in Newtown, this promise was not fulfilled, not for the children there, nor for their beloved and heroic teachers and principal. Time will not ease that pain, nor minimize that tragedy. But we can do whatever is humanly possible to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. We can guarantee to our children that their world inside the schoolhouse door will be safe for them always, where guns have no presence, where guns do not exist. Guns have no place inside the schoolhouse door.

Today, January 21, I am joining with One Million Moms for Gun Control to walk in a rally to call attention to the need to create a safer, nonviolent world for children. On January 26 the organization will co-host another in Washington, D.C.

On that day in Newtown, teachers were true heroes. In the moment of crisis, they reacted with love. They were heartbreakingly brave, throwing themselves over their children's very bodies, protecting them in their final moments with a courage and kindness beyond compare. We cannot betray their memories by bringing fear and violence ever closer to the school room door. Martin Luther King, Jr. said we must never fight violence with violence.

Today, let us together take a new stand in the schoolhouse door, in the memory of the teachers who stood for their children at the moment of crisis, but every day before then creating a safe world for all of them. Let us make a new world where guns do not have a place, where children are safe, and where learning is joyous and full of optimism, where the child goes to school to learn to read and write, and seeks the smile of his beloved teacher.