Hi. My name is Mary Beth Tinker. And I need a bus (or RV.)
Nearly a half-century ago, I was part of a small group of students who made history after we were suspended for wearing simple black armbands to school to mourn the loss of lives in Vietnam. At the time, I was a shy 13-year-old and history was the last thing
on our minds.
But we did make history, eventually winning a landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of First Amendment rights for students.
Mom and I at a Des Moines, Iowa, school board meeting in 1965.
The Tinker ruling is still cited in nearly every student First Amendment case, and almost all American civics and history textbooks refer to it. In 2012, I was included in the book, 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History, along with such notable figures as Rosa Parks, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King (heady stuff indeed for something I did when I was just 13!)
The Bus Tour
I am now a pediatrics nurse, but I also speak frequently with students about our case and the Constitution. But civics education is in dire straights. A recent study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows that only one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government, and another third can’t name any.
So, I’ve decided to do more. Along with attorney Mike Hiestand, who has helped 15,000 students, teachers and administrators navigate student speech issues over the past two decades, I’m going on the “Tinker Tour” — a bus (or RV) trip across the country to promote youth voices, free speech and a free press.
The goal of the Tinker Tour is to bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through my story and those of other young people.
I made a difference with just an armband. Can you imagine what a 13 year-old today can with all of the extraordinary speech tools available?
We look forward to reminding them — and sharing real-life stories about how students are keeping the First Amendment allive.
And, of course, we'll be blogging, Tweeting and documenting everything along the way, sharing the voices of the young people we meet and hearing what's on their minds today.
The tour started as our dream, but has quickly started to feel very real. We have already received close to 100 invitations through our Web site (tinkertourusa.org) to speak at schools and conventions during the 2013-14 school year. And we encourage you to send us an invitation to be considered for a visit to your school or convention as well.
A Special Project of The Student Press Law Center (Your Donations are Tax Deductible!)
We are delighted that the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has agreed to make the tour one of Center's special projects and will collect funds under their 501(c)(3) umbrella, which will make contributions to the tour tax deductible.
The Tinker Tour has also been endorsed by an amazing and growing list of many of the country’s leading civics education, civil rights and journalism education and journalism groups — in fact, too many to fit on this page — and I really encourage you to check them out here. (And thank all of you!)
This is an important moment in the history of our country, especially for youth, who are naturally creative and hopeful, but too often feel discouraged. They need to hear stories of young people throughout history — and today — who bring the Constitution to life and make a difference. And we need to hear from them as well. With your help, we will!
Mary Beth Tinker & Mike Hiestand
SEND US SOME LOVE!!!
Mary Beth and John Tinker (c. 1968)
Show the Tinker Tour some love by flashing your best Peace Sign and submitting your photo by Instagram (#tinkertour) (all lowercase) and we'll post it to our Web site and bring it aboard the bus to be with us in spirit as we travel the country. (Kid-friendly photos, please!)