WASHINGTON, D.C. – 03-12-2019 ( — Participation in the 2019 NEXUS USA Summit included special performances of songs written by the students addressing trauma, gun violence and social justice

Student-songwriters of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida joined Operation Respect, the global nonprofit organization committed to positive social learning, conflict resolution and peace-building, in a series of inspirational performances and discussions in the nation’s capital. 

The students participated in the 2019 NEXUS USA Summit March 6-9, a convening of the next generation of innovative philanthropists, impact investors and leading social innovators dedicated to creating a just and better world.  The summit was staged at the United States Institute of Peace.

Operation Respect linked with the creative voices of the students in unique song-writing exercises in the wake of the violence in Parkland which shocked the nation on Valentine’s Day 2018.  Killing 17 students and staff, and injuring 17 others, it marks the largest mass shooting at a high school in U.S. history.  Led at NEXUS by Operation Respect’s board members and professional artists Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary) and Steve Seskin (composer of Operation Respect’s anthem song Don’t Laugh at Me), the students, who have written lyrics to over a dozen tracks, performed such numbers as Song for the Silenced, Wake Up America, Armor Off  and The Children Will Lead the Way.  Additionally, they participated in the Opening Plenary Session entitled The Crucial Role of Children and Youth in Restoring America.

“We met a lot of inspirational people,” said Sofia Rothenberg, 15, who attended with her mother, Nicole.  “It has been a really enlightening experience and we are so happy to bring our songs and message to NEXUS.”

“It has been a year and they are not stopping,” Nicole said.  “This is a platform to advance positive channels of change.  I think of the students now as ‘baby NEXUS’ members, which was validated just witnessing the kids network with professional philanthropists.”

Payton Francis, 15, agreed.  “It has been an awakening,” Payton said.  “Everyone here is working to change the world, and the overall message has been to not let anyone hold you back.” 

Payton’s mother, Sarah, was equally moved.  “This is where we belong,” she said.  “NEXUS connected with 15-year-olds as equals, and I saw up close the blossoming and rising.  One professional woman approached me and shared she was unsure if she would ever be prepared to bring children of her own into a world with such challenges, but after seeing the Parkland students her mind has changed – and she now sees children as a source of resilience, hope and real change.”

“It’s for the fallen that we did this, together,” said Seskin.  “This was the first performance outside of Parkland, and NEXUS respected these students’ voices and elevated their ideas.  Here you are challenged to go outside your box of expertise and connect with others, and the kids witnessed how NEXUS honors youth as central to our future.  Here we saw the songs come to life.  It is our hope in the aftermath of all that has happened the songs serve as not only a source of healing, but a tool to keep the movement going.  We have barely scratched the surfaced on what this can do.”

“Operation Respect and NEXUS have been amazing,” Marisol Garrido, 18, said.  “They gave us a stage to amplify our voice, and honor those that we lost.”

“We learned more from the Parkland students by their love and music over four days than in the four decades I’ve been alive,” said Rachel Gerrol, Co-Founder and CEO of NEXUS Global Summit.

For Operation Respect Co-Founder Peter Yarrow, the event and location brought extra historical meaning.  “Many years ago, we gathered by the thousands during the March on Washington to address the critical need for civil rights and social justice across our land,” Yarrow said between renditions of Light One Candle, If I Had a Hammer and Blowin’ in the Wind at the closing Interfaith Reception at Halcyon House.  “That call is just as important today, and what a profound privilege to be here with NEXUS, together as representatives of that continuum to heal this nation and the world.”

Contact Operation Respect:

John McKenna, Executive Director,

About Operation Respect

Operation Respect is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children and youth educational training and experiences that can help them become compassionate, respectful, ethical and civically engaged adults.  To help create and sustain positive school climates, Operation Respect incorporates Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula blended with community-building music in its free Don’t Laugh at Me program.  Over the past two decades an estimated 22,000 schools have utilized the program throughout America and the world.  Operation Respect’s tools help to foster peace, acceptance and harmony amongst children and youth, as well as adults who inform and influence their lives.  Founded in 1999 by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, and Dr. Charlotte Frank, senior advisor at McGraw-Hill Education, Operation Respect’s inspiring music, social and emotional learning curricula and multicultural videos teach students to resolve conflict peacefully, celebrate diversity and engage with each other in a spirit of caring, compassion and cooperation.  Over 200,000 copies of the Don’t Laugh at Me program have been disseminated to educators throughout the United States and internationally, with over 50,000 educators participating in professional development workshops worldwide.  Since its inception, over a half-million educators, educational leaders, parents, students, policy makers and community members have attended presentations by Peter Yarrow and other Operation Respect leaders.  Over 1,000 New York City schools have sent teams of educators to participate in workshops, and since 2005 Operation Respect has partnered with the NYC DOE to provide anti-bias Respect for All training for teams of educators from all elementary, middle and high schools in New York City.  Operation Respect formed United Voices for Education, a coalition of 42 educational organizations dedicated to advocating for the education of the whole child.  Operation Respect co-produced A Tribute to the Teachers of America and, in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, produced Concert for Newtown to help bring strength and unity to the brave and grieving community of Newtown as well as the nation.  Both programs have aired on PBS throughout the United States.


NEXUS is a global community founded to bridge communities of wealth and social responsibility.  With over 4,800 members from 70 countries, it works to unite young investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and allies to catalyze new leadership and accelerate needed political, societal, indigenous, financial, environmental and equal justice solutions.

Founded in 2001, NEXUS has hosted over 35 summits across five continents to connect young people from diverse backgrounds and link communities that would otherwise never meet.

NEXUS also conducts research and provides thought leadership to facilitate collaboration and build a global culture of philanthropy.  NEXUS puts the hope and promise of young people on the world stage by bringing together leaders at NEXUS events around the world for inspiration, education, dialogue and collaborative problem solving.

The NEXUS USA Summit inspires learning and collaboration between a uniquely powerful network of peers by connecting the financial, intellectual, creative and social capital of young generations in an action-oriented, solution-focused and safe space.

Media Contacts:

Company Name: Operation Respect
Full Name: John McKENNA
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