Tinker and Hiestand visit to WJEA


By Alyssa Vallester

Legendary freedom fighters Mary Beth Tinker and Mike Hiestand kicked off Tinker Tour USA on Saturday, March 9 at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, teaching students and teachers awareness of their First Amendment rights.

“Students should have a say for democracy in their schools. You all have a voice, and should participate in democracy during your lives,” Tinker said.

Tinker, along with her brother John and his friend Chris Eckhart, were suspended after wearing black armbands to school in December 1965, to mourn those killed in the Vietnam War and to show support for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s call for a “Christmas truce.”

“I had no idea that this was a big deal,” Tinker said, “I took it off, gave the band to the girls’ adviser, and was suspended,” she added recalling the events that led to one of the most significant Supreme Court cases in the history of the United States. A First Amendment battle ensued and in 1969  the Supreme Court issued the historic Tinker Decision making it clear that all students have First Amendment rights, even when they are in school.

“My parents raised us to believe in peace. Everyone in the country, the world even, can learn more about their rights,” Tinker advised.

Hiestand worked for more than 20 years as an attorney for the Student Press Law Center, answering questions about free speech and media law. Their project aims to teach students and teachers about rights and how to responsibly use them to strive for peace.

“It was a surprise to us. Some people thought doing unpopular things was unpatriotic, but we were being patriotic by following the amendments,” Tinker said.

Tinker and Hiestand will officially start their campaign on Sept. 17, Constitution Day, where they will travel to juvenile detention centers, libraries, schools, and other venues encouraging students to stand up and speak up about things that matter.

Tinker is a part of history and she currently appears in nearly every history book used by American students.

She also is featured in the book, “101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals who changed U.S. history.” She currently works as a trauma nurse in Washington, D.C. and works to empower students’ voices in contemporary issues during her spare time.