In the aftermath of the recent mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, some students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School quickly became household names, appearing on radio and television, demanding votes on gun control measures in the Congress, as they earned strong support – as well as stern criticism – over their call for action.
But when a group of students from the school arrived on Capitol Hill this week, they stayed far below the radar, shunning the spotlight, choosing to stay away from television cameras and reporters, as they took their message of change to members of both parties.
“They’ve been invisible,” one producer from a major television network told me, as up in the press galleries of the Capitol, some of my fellow reporters were frankly a bit amazed that the kids had managed to go around Capitol Hill for two days without drawing much in the way of media attention.
From what reporters were told, that was the plan – stay away from the press, and focus on meetings with lawmakers, where they could deliver their message on what should happen after the mass shooting that killed 17 people earlier this month.
No news conferences.
No photo opportunities with lawmakers.
No scenes of photographers and reporters jockeying for position. No rush for live interviews on the cable networks.
It could have been a media circus – if the students wanted one. But they obviously did not.
“I only heard about their meetings after they happened,” one colleague told me.
Like when this tweet suddenly appeared on Monday from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Asked about possible coverage of a meeting between one Democrat and the group of students on Tuesday, a press staffer had a simple explanation of why reporters weren’t being told about the various meetings in the House and Senate.
“The students had asked us not to advise the meeting to press.”
And so, the kids trooped around Capitol Hill on Monday and Tuesday, meeting with top leaders in both parties.
But most of that was seen only because of a photo here and there on social media.
Normally, a meeting like that would have drawn a crowded photo op, with photographers and reporters jockeying for position, or maybe a statement afterwards by those who had met with Speaker Paul Ryan.
But on this lobbying trip for the students, there were no news conferences.
No statements for the TV cameras, which were just down the hall in the Capitol.
Even for their meetings with Florida lawmakers, most of those Congressional offices stayed quiet.
As the students wrapped up their Tuesday visits on Capitol Hill, it didn’t seem like their visit had changed the dynamic on how best to deal with gun violence.
But their message had been heard.
“Their pleas were heartfelt, and we had a most constructive conversation,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC).