NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The tragic mass shooting in Virginia Beach, as well as other recent shootings, are fueling the gun debate in Virginia.
Over the weekend, Warwick High School valedictorian John Gnik used his graduation address to highlight the issues facing his generation, and gun violence and mass shootings were at the top of his list.
"We must come to grips with the reality we've inherited. We must be different, we cannot remain complicit," he said. "If we remain complicit, your son, my best friend, his sister being the next victim of the next mass shooting isn't a nightmare; it's an inevitability."
His speech received loud applause from the audience.
Now video of his speech has close to 15,000 views from people and it's stirring up conversation in the community.
Did he ever expect it to get so much attention?
"To be quite honest, I just wanted to speak to my fellow graduates directly," he replied. "I didn’t know it would get so much attention."
Over eight minutes at the microphone, he said, “I was calling upon my friends and my fellow graduates rather than presuming I can fix the issues myself... and also I’m not running for office," Gnik said jokingly.
Instead of going into politics, this standout public speaker plans to go to the University of Virginia and study astrophysics.
Even though he has more science-based ambitions, one of his main goals for his speech was to get his generation to get out and vote.
“I encourage every single one of you, to act on every single one of your moral obligations and make the world a better place in your own unique way," Gnik said in his speech.
So far, Gnik said he’s gotten mixed reviews online.
“Some people really liked the speech, and they’ve told me that I’ve really inspired them, and some people haven’t liked it so much and they’ve been vocal about that too.”
Nevertheless, he's happy he's leaving making a difference with his peers and the Newport News community.
“I’m proud that I was able to reach so many people. I hope that I was able to inspire more people than I had initially set out to."