Spring Break 2012 at the Capitol and the White House
Guest Post by Nicole Helmers, University of Indianapolis, freshman majoring in Psychology and Occupational Therapy.
While all my wild friends were getting spray-on tans and neon bikinis for Panama City Beach for Spring Break 2012, myself and a couple of my classmates from the University of Indianapolis met up with other students from other Indiana Universities and headed to Washington, D.C. in dress pants and heels. After an eleven-hour bus ride, we arrived in this beautiful city, with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, eager to attend the Citizens for Global Solutions' 2012 Annual Conference early the next morning.
After maneuvering through D.C.'s stressful traffic, we arrived and discovered that the conference was filled with people of every age, race, and religion, not just college students. It was refreshing and empowering to be part of such a great group!
After a long day of traveling and spending a few hours out on the town the day before, we were now on Capitol Hill ready to kick off the conference and start our day of lobbying. As a Cincinnati resident and Ohio voter, I split off from my Indiana friends and headed to the Russell Office Senate building to meet with Senator Rob Portman's office.
Though Senator Portman was not available, we met with Brent Bombach, the senator's military legislative assistant. Though a bit nervous, the three of us from Ohio walked into the senator's office and soon started our conversation with Mr. Bombach.
We had spent part of that morning training for these visits and had three main points that we wanted to discuss with the senator's office.
- We wanted the senator to support full funding for the International affair's budget, especially as it relates to the United Nations and peacekeeping missions. The International affairs budget is only 1% of the total federal budget and for every $1 we invest in the United Nations, we receive about $1.66 back. Not only is the International Affairs budget a good investment; it is critical for national security and our nation's interests.
- We also had deep concerns about the situation in Iran. While no one wants to see an Iran with nuclear weapons, we were asking the senator not to rush to war. No option should be taken off the table, we stated, but diplomacy and work through International institutions like the IAEA should be completely exhausted before military options are considered.
- With the breaking news that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had just convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, the Court's first conviction in its ten-year history, we asked the senator's office to seek a closer relationship with the ICC. The conviction of Lubanga was a clear message to the world against the use of child soldiers. We felt that it was in the U.S.'s best interest and in the interest of global cooperation and peace to support the work of the ICC.
Overall, we were received extremely well in Senator Portman's office, and Mr. Bombach answered our questions in a clear and polite manner. The moment we stepped out of the conference room, I let out a sigh, letting go of all the nervousness and uncertainty that was bottled up inside me. I realized just how much of an impact one individual can have upon a senator and important decisions.
The next day, our group of 16 from Indiana quickly navigated the Metro system and the busy D.C. streets in order to reach the security station of the White House. I couldn't believe that we, as college students, were going to be able to tour the East Wing of the actual White House! Seeing the inside of a building that I have been familiar with since I was a child was absolutely breath taking, life altering, and humbling. Not only was Citizens of Global Solutions specially invited to join, but we also had the chance to speak with some important members of the government and introduce our issues.
The last day of the conference was specially geared toward the nuts and bolts of Citizens of Global Solutions. Not only were we excited to hear about changes at CGS, but we also had the chance to speak our minds about the way the organization was structured. My friends and I all stood behind the important point that college students and young professionals were the future of this organization and were needed to keep it running and expanding. I have taken it as my own responsibility to form a small chapter of CGS at the University of Indianapolis, and I cannot wait to put the plan in place of getting more students involved in action.
This conference has opened my eyes to the realization that I can personally do something to persuade government leaders and put my college courses in Government to work. The future of CGS is bright, and I cannot wait to attend the conference next year!
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