“I understand the power of my voice. I speak for the ones that don’t have a voice… That whole ‘just being a basketball player,’ I’m so not that” – Dwayne Wade speaking to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The Heat legend surprised the students on their first full day of classes since 14 students and three adults were killed on Feb. 14 by a former student. He planned the trip to “bring a moment of joy knowing it was their first full day back at school, knowing it was going to be a tough day for a lot of kids” and to sit down with leaders to see how he can get involved in the next steps they will be taking.
“They are well-prepared and well-aware of what they need to do and what they want to do and the change they want to see,” Wade said. “It’s great. It’s great to hear. It’s great to see that, because I come from a community in Chicago where our youth are getting killed daily and don’t have the same voice, don’t have the same light on them that Parkland has. These kids understand what they have and they’re taking other kids with them.
“I’m excited about getting behind and supporting them.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he got “goosebumps” when he saw the reaction to Wade’s visit on social media. Spoelstra, Heat players Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow and Udonis Haslem along with representatives from the Dolphins, Panthers and Marlins, met with family members of five students who were wounded in the shooting.
“We were up there last week. Dwyane went up there yesterday. And what an incredible day.” Spoelstra said. “The takeaway that he had from it was how inspiring these young men and women are, to make sure that their voices get heard, to be able to specifically force change – and it’s not going to be easy – but the resiliency of the kids up in Parkland really, truly is remarkable.
“It’s inspiring. It’s a call to action for all of us and we’re honored to be just a small part of it to support them, and hopefully give them all a much bigger megaphone.”
Douglas High students are planning to take part in a “March For Our Lives” walk March 24 in Washington, D.C. Wade was asked if he is planning to join them – the Heat are off that day, with games in Oklahoma City on March 23 and Indiana on March 25. He said he doesn’t know if that is possible.
“Unfortunately, I’m in the NBA season,” he said. “If it wasn’t it would be easy to say, ‘yeah.’ But our schedule is a little tough coming up here down the stretch.”
Wade arrived during the first lunch period, mingling and taking photos with students before meeting with leadership and peer counseling classes. He was asked about the reaction from the students.
“You might think I’m lying but I’m being truthful, I didn’t expect that kind of reaction,” he said. “I knew it was a tough day for them going back to their first full day. I definitely wanted to bring an element of surprise, an element of joy. The reaction was unbelievable. It was great to see, it was great to feel that energy, the vibe that carried them throughout the whole day and carried me for the rest of day as well.”
Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, also visited the school Wednesday but many students characterized her appearance as a publicity stunt. One contrasted her visit to Wade’s on social media.
“I was with both Devos and Wade today. Devos didn’t sit down with students and asked what we wanted. She gave us BS answers to the only few questions I was allowed to ask. Wade on the other hand, did more than she. He sat down with students and asked important questions.”
Carly Novell, 17, the editor of the student newspaper said Wade resonated much more with students.
“He talked about change and what needed to happen, which is kind of funny to me — a government official did absolutely nothing, and a professional basketball player talked to us and was real with us,” Novell said.
Novell later tweeted:
“Can Dwayne Wade be our new secretary of education? He’s done 1000 times more than Betsy DeVos today.”
Wade’s voice became more powerful when it was revealed that one of those students who was killed, 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, was buried in Wade’s No. 3 Heat jersey.
Wade’s mother, Jolinda, and his sister, Tragil, met and spoke with Joaquin’s parents, Manuel and Patricia, at their Coral Springs home last week. On Saturday, Patricia, Manuel and their daughter, Andrea, were guests of Wade’s at the Heat’s game against Detroit on Saturday.
Wade presented the family with a Heat Vice jersey and custom made sneakers following the game.
On Wednesday, Wade met with two of Oliver’s best friends, seniors Julien Decoste and Darius Trotman.
Wade repeatedly has said he will continue to support the students and speak out against what he calls “weak gun laws.”
“I just think of myself as a concerned citizen of the community,” he said. “That’s it. I may be one of the most popular citizens of the community, but I’m just a citizen of the community like everyone else. My concerns are no different than your concerns or my next door neighbor’s concerns. Safety for our kids. When the roads are messed up, complaining. It’s no different.
“I don’t look at myself as an activist. I look at myself as one of many in the community that I’m concerned with what’s going on not only in Miami, Florida but around the world. That’s how I view myself.”