I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

— John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780

It pains us to inform Mr. Adams, second president of the United States, that neither his grandsons, nor his great-great-great-granddaughters, live in a world, and certainly not in a nation, where they are free to ignore the study of politics and war in favor of painting and poetry.

But that’s OK.

Whatever it is that needs to be done, sometimes it just takes a new generation of people who haven’t yet been beaten down by all the explanations of how the way things are is the way they are supposed to be.

That the fix is in. That big money rules and the voices of normal people don’t count.

Events move quickly these days.

It was only hours after the massacre of innocent teenagers at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that survivors of that assault — what Mr. Adams might recognize as an act of war — and others of their cohort in other schools across that state and across the nation were standing up and demanding that the adults who hold all the power stop standing around and do something.

Their language was sometimes coarse. Their expectations for quick action perhaps more than a bit naive. But their cause is just and their anger well-placed.

And, because of the speed with which such things happen, it was within days that these same outspoken teens were being denigrated, belittled and lied about by the friends of the right-wing gun nuttery that holds so much power in this society.

They were dismissed as petulant children. Lied about as phonies, actors, pawns of the global left.

Because so many things move so quickly, while other things never seem to change at all, the risk is that the teenagers and their allies in this cause will soon be discouraged by a lack of quick reward. Distracted by the next popular cause. Worn down by the truly evil people who fight dirty and have lots of money.

But that was the risk when previous generations of young Americans stood against other wrongs, racial bigotry and the Vietnam War prime among them.

As with Vietnam, today’s older generation is content to sacrifice young lives over a flawed policy they thought was irreversible. It is time to call out those who accept slaughtering children in school as the price to own an assault weapon.

This won’t be accomplished easily. Those who now speak and march will have to remember, commit, organize and, most important of all, register and vote the minute they are legally able to do so.

There is hope that this generation now speaking out and demanding action will be the one described by a youngish president, now mostly remembered by their grandparents, the one to glow from a fire that will truly light the world.