Jordan Harb, the 17-year-old Mesa student who helped organize a student walkout on March 14 to mark the one-month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., said he won’t be deterred by lawmakers’ lack of response. After all, many of the students who joined him at the Capitol will soon be able to vote. If lawmakers don’t take their pleas seriously, he said, they’ll hit the polls and vote for those who will listen.
A junior at Mountain View High School, Harb said he’s been politically active for some time. He started a We the People and a Young Democrats club in school, and has helped register almost 600 seniors to vote, he said. He also interned with Save our Schools Arizona last summer.
Listening to him speak passionately about the work he’s doing, it’s almost easy to forget he’s in high school – that is, until he starts raving about video games and his love of Harry Potter.
It’s really weird. I actually walked into the gas station that I go to every day to get an energy drink and the cashier was like, “I saw you on the front page of the newspaper.”
How did you organize the Day of Action on March 14?
It has kind of been a mix of social media and phone banking. We’ve used social media to blow up and get the event out and a lot of people have signed up to volunteer. But through all of the forms we have, whether you’re signing up to volunteer or signing up for our newsletter, we always ask if you’re a student. So for the Day of Action, I basically got every phone number I had for a student here in Arizona and I called every single one of them personally and said, “Come down to the Capitol. This is important. We need to make some changes here.” And I texted them all a little graphic we made for social media, a little bio, and they themselves went and spread it all over social media.
What’s been the response from your teachers?
I go to a really, really conservative school. … So some of my teachers know what I’m doing but have ignored it because they don’t like what I’m doing.
How do your parents feel about all of the attention?
They’re just kind of on the sidelines at this point. I think that, I’ve been a little involved for a while now, so they’ve gotten a little used to me just always being somewhere. And now they’re seeing me on the news every single day. My mom called me yesterday and told me, “Can you stop being on the news? I’m worried someone’s gonna kill you.”
What about the Parkland shooting sparked this kind of reaction?
I think it’s because of the Parkland students. They’ve become inspirations for the entire nation. If it wasn’t for them, this wouldn’t be happening because students aren’t really inclined to break the rules and break the status quo. It’s kind of entrenched. And watching the survivors of the Florida shooting stand up and make national television every single day when they’re my age, or younger even, it inspired me. It inspired everyone else to say enough is enough. We are the catalyst, we are the changemakers. And I think that’s why this has been so successful. The survivors speaking out, that was the moment that this became a movement. Because with all other shootings everyone says it’s not the time to talk, we’re mourning. But it’s become obvious that the time between each shooting is becoming shorter and shorter, so there is no time to talk about it if you want to respect the dead. And watching the survivors speak out, that broke the status quo, it ended that excuse.
Don’t take any offense, but we just wanted to gauge what your reaction would be. How much is George Soros paying you?
Who’s George Soros?
He’s a billionaire Democratic donor.
Well, I would like to ask George Soros to please send me checks. I’ve taken a huge hit out of my paychecks. I work like twice a week now because every waking hour of my life has been dedicated to this movement and I could really use some gas money.
Jokes aside, some Republicans questioned Democrats’ intentions following the Day of Action, with one member, Rep. Anthony Kern, saying that the students “were played.” What do you say to that?
I would think it was the other way around. I had been talking to the Democratic Caucus in order to get more radical things to happen that day. I wanted something to happen on the floor that day and we pushed it. And if anything, we pushed the Democratic Caucus to read our cards. The youth who showed up that day and the youth who walked out of class across the state aren’t partisan, we’re just scared.
Do you think this is a one-time thing or will we be seeing students become more politically active?
This youth movement didn’t just start with Parkland. … Youth have been mobilizing since the 2016 election, slowly, and I think the Parkland shooting has been the catalyst just to make it explode exponentially and I don’t think it’s stopping anytime soon.
Do you think you’ll pursue politics in the future?
This has permanently impacted me and I can tell you I will be pursuing activism, public policy and government for probably the rest of my life.
What’s your favorite subject in school?
Social studies. I love learning about history and I love learning about social sciences, I just think it’s fascinating. … I went to D.C., the week of the Parkland shooting actually, and I met with Senator Jeff Flake. A little off topic, but I was very disappointed because his answers were very politician-like and I was upset that children had died that day. But while I was there, we took a tour of the Capitol building and I was sitting in the old Supreme Court building. And they told me that the Dred Scott decision was made there, and I don’t know, I almost started crying because I thought it was the coolest thing ever because I’m standing in a place that like, a terrible decision by the way, but a monumental decision was made that I learned about in U.S. History.