Written By Anne Creter, National Department of Peacebuilding Committee of the Peace Alliance
The student interns’ last day at the Peace Alliance was June 30, 2016. We wanted it to be special for Jeimy Ruiz of Middlebury College (CT) and Taylor Onderko of Claremont College (CA). So with help from the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee, the Peace Alliance prepared an exciting Congressional lobby day experience for them on Capital Hill advocating for passage of current legislation to establish a Department of Peacebuilding (HR 1111). Not only did Field Director Dan Kahn participate but I was thrilled to be part of this impressive, inter-generational Peace Alliance delegation advocating in Congress for HR 1111 and peacebuilding. (pix1).
Our mission focused on lobbying the 27 California Democratic Members of Congress (MOC) who have not yet signed onto HR 1111. CA Rep. Barbara Lee is the sponsor of HR 1111, which is cosponsored by 39 MOCs, including 10 CA cosponsors. CA Department of Peacebuilding supporters, including National Department of Peacebuilding CA members, recently obtained more than 300 signatures to deliver to these offices from Californians who support the bill. Plus the CA State Democratic Party endorses HR 1111 as one of its 5 federal legislative priorities. Thus, we made a walloping 27 unannounced visits -- dropping off informative peace packets, inquiring whether a staff person was available to talk briefly about it and getting current follow-up contact information. The interns skillfully navigated us through the hallowed halls of Congress maze. Taylor was lucky her CA Representative – Loretta Sanchez – was on our list. We got to meet with the Legislative Assistant there who was intrigued hearing Taylor’s college is the Rep.’s alma mater. (pix 2). In addition, we had impromptu meetings with staffers at two other offices: Rep. Scott Peters and Rep. Jared Huffman.
In preparing our elevator speech, we could not recall the exact name of the committee the bill had been referred to until we stumbled upon the very room where that committee meets. We won’t make that “oversight” again as the name of the committee is the “Oversight” and Governent Reform Committee. (pix3).
The interns were fortunate Dan was with them so they could witness a master “peace lobbyist” at work. They had never lobbied before so were anxious about what to expect. And boy were they quick studies! By the end of the day they had become so proficient that they felt comfortable making the last visits on their own, even managing to nab that third staffer meeting themselves while Dan and I rested our weary bones.
In conclusion, this inter-generational day spent with the interns on the Hill lobbying for peacebuilding was productive in bringing closure to the prior advocacy efforts of many grassroots California HR 1111 supporters. It was also door-opening in that it may be possible for Jeimy who lives in New York to come to the United Nations on September 1 for the tentatively planned 5th annual High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace – whose apt theme this year is Youth and the Sustainable Development Goals. Being with these remarkable young “peace studies” women and the multi-talented, indefatigable Dan all day (pix 4) enabled me go home with a renewed sense of hope for the future in spite of this wildly crazy “election year” period where violence is escalating everywhere and “peace” seems so utterly elusive. Surely it is time now for the political revolution that is necessary to give the Department of Peacebuilding and peace a chance. It was on this hopeful note that we bid the interns a fond farewell -- so sad to have to part. (pix 4).