Hi. My name is Mary Beth Tinker.
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 protecting the First Amendment rights of students.
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 Tinker Tour
“Inspiring.” “Powerful.” “Life changing.” Those are just a few things that
young people and teachers across America had to say when our freedom bus came through their towns.
Last fall, along with attorney
Mike Hiestand, who has helped 15,000 students, teachers and administrators navigate student speech issues over the past two decades, I embarked on the Tinker Tour to promote youth voices, free speech and a free press.
It is hard to capture in words just how amazing — and truly magical — the tour was. We actually kicked things off September 17 on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, steps away from the Liberty Bell, where we were invited to take part in the National Constitution Center's Constitution Day celebration.
From there, we traveled 16,000 miles across the American east coast and into the deep south in "Gabby" the Tinker Tour free speech "bus" (actually a hot pink RV disguised as a bus!).
Over the course of about 12 weeks, Mike and I spoke to well over 20,000 students and teachers in middle schools, high schools, colleges, courts, a youth detention facility, churches and libraries.
We also stopped at about half a dozen conventions, including the national conventions of both America's high school student media in Boston and the social studies teachers convention in St. Louis, where we were invited to park our bus inside their convention halls where we met thousands of students and teachers.
In November, we were honored to spend a memorable evening at the U.S. Supreme Court at a special event hosted by Justice Samuel Alito that was devoted to a discussion of our case.
And near the end of the tour, we stopped in Des Moines, Iowa, where both my brother John and I were — for the first time — invited back to the schools from where we were suspended nearly half-century ago. In addition to talking to students and teachers about our experience we were honored at Harding Middle School by having a locker dedicated to us.
Help Send the Tinker Tour West!
Last spring — though the Tinker Tour was just a dream — we successfully raised $50,000 here at StartSomeGood. That was about half of our goal for a nationwide bus tour so we toured the eastern half of the country.
The dream of the Tinker Tour is now a reality. It works! This spring, we want to continue spreading our message of student empowerment and finish our national tour by visiting schools and events West of the Mississippi. We already have more invitations than we can possibly entertain. And thanks to the success of our fall tour and support from those who understand the value of our mission, we have now raised or received pledges to meet about half of our spring tour budget.
But we still need your help!
To make the spring tour a reality we need to raise $25,000 through StartSomeGood.
The Tinker Tour brings a real-life civics lessons to schools and communities. Our message is simple:
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?
As we did this fall, 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. In addition, a team at the University of Oregon has collected about 200 hours of video from our fall tour and will follow us around on our spring tour as they assemble a Tinker Tour documentary showcasing young voices.
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 will continue to support the tour as a "special project" and will collect funds under their 501(c)(3) umbrella, which will make contributions to the tour tax deductible.
The Tinker Tour has 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!
Thank you for your generous contribution and assistance in bringing the Constitution to life!