I’m about to board a plane for Washington, DC to take part in the biggest political sea change of our generation. At this point in my life where I own and run my own company, that is supported by amazing customers all over the world, I can now offer a way for you to help as well. This weekend, I will donate $50 from every High Roller that is sold to the March For Our Lives fund. Which later this year is going to be the Vote For Our Lives. Why am I doing this? We have to look further back into my life to see what has brought me to this point.
In high school I was an exchange student to Australia. I spent a semester living with an Australian family and going to Australian school and making Australian friends with whom I’m still in contact with today. The purpose of that and most every exchange program was to promote peace among peoples even with different beliefs, through people to people interactions.
In 1959, President Eisenhower formed the People to People organization (to later become Sister Cities International) with this premise:
“If we are going to take advantage of the assumption that all people want peace, then the problem is for people to get together and to leap governments–if necessary to evade governments–to work out not one method but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other.“
And it worked. I had an amazing, enriching experience like none other. I have a family on the other side of the planet, and for a brief time I was able to see the United States as an outsider might. That we’re not perfect, that we’re not even the best at everything, but that we’ve made an amazing go of democracy as an institution, and I’m proud to be from America.
Fifteen years later, I found myself running that same student exchange program and allowing other kids and families to have that incredible experience. I’ve never been more proud of work I’ve done than for that.
On April 20, 1999 I got a phone call from my co-chairman, “Have you heard the radio? Something’s happening at Columbine high school, and it’s bad. It’s real bad.” All of a sudden everything we knew to be safe and normal no longer was. A typical high school experience had turned into a war zone. We immediately scrambled to get hold of all of the kids and families in our program. Some parents were at work and didn’t even know anything had happened. Some kids were already home, hiding in their basements absolutely terrified not knowing what was going on. Slowly, agonizingly, we accounted for all of our kids, except one. I managed to find her dad’s work phone number and called him. He was at work watching a television with views from a helicopter of SWAT teams surrounding the place he had just dropped his daughter off that morning. “I haven’t heard from her yet,” he said quietly.
Minutes went by that felt like hours. Hours went by that felt like weeks. I called a couple times with a pit in my stomach each time, with no news.
Finally he called me, “From the helicopter video, when they were leading the very last group of students out of the building, I recognized her striped shirt.” This very last group of students to come out had to step over the bodies of their classmates. These were students that I had a responsibility to, whose families I knew deeply. All of us were ravaged by the events that day, and still are.
That was 1999. So what has changed since then? Not a goddamned thing. Unless you count the 25 school massacres since then. Or unless you count the 187,000 students at 193 schools who have experienced slaughters and gun murders since then. Or unless you count the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that was allowed to expire in 2004. That all changed.
There have been a dozen school shootings just this year.
And finally, the children are doing what the adults can’t.
They are saying ENOUGH.
And they are doing something about it.
This is big. Bigger than any one of us. Bigger than what the NRA can buy. And I am supporting it. And my company is supporting it. And if you were going to get a High Roller anyway, now you can support it. You can also support it by giving directly at the March For Our Lives website.
Think of me what you will, think of my company what you will. But this is what I stand for.
Thank you with all my heart,