In contrast to the Vietnam war era, political activism has not been particularly popular among teenagers during the Iraq war. However, Vinalhaven tenth-grader Morgan Bouton doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what is popular. The 16-year-old spent St. Patrick’s Day with approximately 50,000 other demonstrators at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., protesting the war in Iraq.

Bouton traveled from Portland to Washington with a contingent of the ANSWER Coalition. ANSWER is an acronym for “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.” She first heard of the ANSWER Coalition when she was at a concert and saw a poster advertising the demonstration. “I just thought the information was worth writing down,” she explained.

When she got home, Bouton looked up the coalition online and decided the protest was an event she wanted to attend.

Bouton admitted that she didn’t necessarily feel passionately about the war, but “I’ve always thought it shouldn’t be going on,” she said. “I think it’s a silly way to solve problems, killing people. A lot of the money going to the war could be spent on education and other things.”

Bouton’s mother, Lisa Smith, is very proud of her daughter’s determination to make her opinion known.

“I think it was a very bold and very brave thing to do,” said Smith. “I think it’s good that she is so interested at such a young age.”

Despite an unexpected late-winter storm that brought several inches of snow and sleet to New England and a wind chill temperature in the teens to Washington, the march on the Pentagon attracted an estimated 50,000 people. Participants included other anti-war organizations, veterans of this and other wars, active duty soldiers and friends and families of soldiers missing in action, among others. According to Bouton, “the march started very slowly. Pro-war people on the other side of the road were yelling rude comments. It was easy to lose people in the crowd.”

The march on the Pentagon was one of several demonstrations that took place across the country from March 17-20, including one in Los Angeles that drew 50,000 and one in San Francisco on March 18 that drew 40,000. The protest at the Pentagon was broadcast live on C-Span and Al Jazeera, and was covered by CNN and the French newspaper Le Monde.

Smith feels this was a worthwhile experience for her daughter. “One reason I wanted her to go was because it could be a life-changing experience to witness democracy in action,” she said. “So many people feel they don’t have a voice. I wanted her to see that everybody does count, everybody does have a voice.”

Despite the weather, Bouton enjoyed the weekend. “It was pretty awesome,” she said. “It was the best experience you could have for a first demonstration. The people on the bus were really cool.” Though she confessed “I still don’t know if I feel passionately about it,” Bouton is considering attending another ANSWER Coalition antiwar demonstration in Kennebunkport in August. “If anyone considers going, they really should,” she said. “You meet a lot of interesting people. I think every little bit counts,” she added. “If everyone thought only one voice wouldn’t count, then no one would be there.” It appears Bouton has learned her mother’s lesson.