This is an open letter to my fellow advocates and dear friends with whom I spent a lot of time (and at the same time not enough) in DC. It’s on this blog instead of an e-mail because what I experienced this weekend really should be on the record. If you want to know why we were there, click here. If you want to see what I did with my own time, click here.
To Whom Advocating for Peace is the Most Paramount Task,
In Lawrence Weschler’s Vermeer in Bosnia, he uses a scene of human rights abuse in Shakespeare’s Henry V to analyze the massacre at Srebrenica. Since we were all in DC as a part of our advocacy against mass atrocities, I thought it was fitting that I thought of a wholly different part of the same play. What we learn from Shakespeare is that, on St. Crispen’s Day, Westmoreland wished they had more troops to fight, to which the King responded – at length – that he would rather die with those who were around him: “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”
There were only a few of us that were able to make the trek to Washington this weekend. I boarded my plane knowing two friends would be there, alongside a few who I only knew over the phone, and a handful of strangers. I left with over a dozen friends with whom I can share this experience. And it’s not just an experience of being able to say “I got to see David Plouffe speak” or “Holy crap I just saw Bo in the hallway,” it’s much more than that.
It’s the fact that I can say that not only did most of us meet for the first time at State Place & 17th Street in the early morning on Friday – and proceed to spend almost all of the next 48 hours together – but that we made true friends and learned a lot from one another during that time. It was with this group of new friends that I learned about the Fourth Estate (which I sadly missed and sounds inspiring) and shared my thoughts on America’s LRA strategy (thanks for listening, Adam). I experienced my first poetry slam at Busboys and ate the greatest sweet potato fries. I met four people whom I could never thank enough for helping me over the years via phone calls and e-mails, and I had three people bear witness to the hostel at which I stayed.
More than learning about USAID’s programs around the world and seeing the White House’s outreach efforts first hand, I got soaked in rain with friends – twice – and got in more than one conversation about the attractiveness of a certain former Director of African Affairs at the NSC. I talked about the ICC, heard about conflicts in the CAR, and learned about crisis mapping in the DRC. But I also learned how not to use Camden Yards as a slip’n'slide, was compared to the sorcerer Jafar, and laughed uncontrollably at somebody saying “K as in knitting.”
I am truly humbled by having the chance to meet you this weekend. We all traveled to DC, some of us flying across the Great Plains while others took buses up from the South, to hear what the White House had to say and learn from it. I have been involved with this cause for a long time in my life, but I got involved my senior year of high school. I am only 21 years old and I just barely finished my undergrad, and yet I wasn’t out of place. Some of you are still in high school and are already raising thousands of dollars and lobbying your senators and representatives for this. Some of you have been done with school and are already forging ahead into the real world, blazing the trail for advocates. You all are superstars.
While we were able to raise our concerns with several officials (spitting fire while we did it), we did even more. We solidified our place as advocates with more than just an issue or a cause, but with a passion. As I told some of you, I’m at sort of an impasse in my life where I’ve stopped cheering for Enough and I haven’t fundraised as much for IC as I used to, but I can’t stop, won’t stop, advocating for peace and justice through Resolve.
To each and every one of you who joined me in any of these escapades, thank you. We raised our voices and delivered letters, we definitely made a difference. But I sure as hell made some great friends too.