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Mary Beth Tinker Talks About Her Role in the History of Student Rights

In 1995, Mary Beth Tinker wore a black armband in school to protest the Vietnam War and helped change the course for students’ rights to free speech in school.

“Students, a lot of people want to say that you are the future. But I am here to tell you that you are also the present.” Tinker explained. “In 1965, when the Vietnam War was escalating, I was getting sadder and sadder watching the news. Kids were running from their huts and the huts were on fire. It looked like the whole world was on fire. Just like now, with the students in Florida, we were motivated by strong emotion. Some of the older kids at the high school had an idea of wearing black armbands [in protest]. I had a black armband on an I went off to school and I was really nervous and scared. I had no idea that that small action was going to make such a big difference.”

In reference to the new generation of student protestors, she stated, “You can rally, you can have petitions, you can use your First Amendment rights, the right to free speech, to freedom of the press, to petition, to assemble, the right to your beliefs in religion. Use those First Amendment rights to make a difference.”

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