After the atrocity at his high school in Parkland, Florida, Cameron Kasky threw himself headfirst into political activism. He burst onto the national stage during a CNN town hall-style meeting, during which he told Sen. Marco Rubio -- a supporter of the Second Amendment -- that confronting the lawmaker with a question onstage felt like looking "down the barrel of an AR-15," or even at the killer himself. It was an especially off-putting moment in a string of divisive and alienating exchanges from that evening, and it helped set the tone for the extraordinarily rancorous "debate" over gun control that ensued, in which opponents' of traumatized teenagers' newfound views were routinely painted as uncaring, pro-death monsters. Over the course of the 'March For Our Lives' movement, I've largely refrained from personally commenting on the individual kids involved, even when their rhetoric was offensive or objectionable. I instead tried to help students with different perspectives have their voices heard.
A few weeks ago, a mutual friend reached out with a somewhat surprising request: Kasky wanted to meet with me. We've since put an in-person conversation on the books for later this fall, and we've spoken by phone several times. I've learned that after effectively introducing himself to the country as a fiery partisan, Kasky began a journey of reflection regarding his whole approach to political engagement. Was he helping or hurting the national discourse? After a period of introspection, Kasky concluded that he needed to radically alter his trajectory. In an interview on Benson & Harf this week, he told us he's left 'March For Our Lives,' confirmed that he's "very regretful" of some of the things he's done and said, and conceded that he "certainly" wishes he'd handled the Rubio encounter differently. In fact, he's arranged an upcoming meeting with the Senator to try to reset their relationship.
He told us how he's now aware that he was "propped up as an expert by the media," even though he and his friends lacked expertise. He's also grown to realize how little he understood about the beliefs and motives of people with differing views -- describing to us how he's now met and talked with people who use firearms to defend their families, and discovered that roughly half of women are pro-life. In the coming weeks, Kasky is launching a podcast called Cameron Knows Nothing, in which he'll welcome guests from across the political spectrum in an effort to better elucidate issues, learn about opposing viewpoints, and encourage healthier discussion. Click through for our interview:
Having gotten to know Kasky a little bit, it's important to note that he hasn't suddenly become a conservative, nor has he totally uprooted his stances on gun restrictions. But he's clearly gone out of his way to totally overhaul the way in which he both participates in our national conversation and uses the enormous platform the media has afforded him. It takes courage, humility and maturity to make such a dramatic and self-aware turn as a teenager, especially in the context of immense pressure from certain elements of the Left to remain in his pre-defined box. My hat is off to him, and I hope his new posture is sustained and rewarded. After he hurled that End of Discussion slur at Rubio, the Senator magnanimously answered that Kasky and his friends have an opportunity to "change not just our laws, but the way we talk about our laws." Kasky has now made the constructive choice to take that last element to heart. Much respect. I'll leave you with Kasky's recent sit-down with Dave Rubin:
Part two is HERE.