|Don Kraus with Judge Phillipe Kirsch
The Global Citizen
Today I had the privilege of attending President Obama's inauguration. It's difficult to express the emotions attached to this historic event.
It's not often that confirmation hearings get me excited, but I can't get over how great it was to hear a cabinet nominee talk about the importance of passing The Law of the Sea Treaty. Yesterday, Secretary of State-nominee Hillary Clinton said the long-overdue passage of this treaty will be a priority if she's confirmed. Her comments were prompted by a question from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
MURKOWSKI: Will ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty be a priority for you?
CLINTON: Yes, it will be, and it will be because it is long overdue, Senator. The Law of the Sea Treaty is supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, environmental, energy, and business interests. I have spoken with some of our -- our naval leaders, and they consider themselves to be somewhat disadvantaged by our not having become a party to the Law of the Sea. Our industrial interests, particularly with seabed mining, just shut up. I mean, there's nothing that they can do because there's no protocol that they can feel comfortable that gives them the opportunity to pursue commercial interests.
So, for all of those reasons -- and I mention it in conjunction with the Arctic because I think they go hand in hand -- we've got to figure out where our boundaries are. You know, if people start drilling in areas that are now ice free most of the year, and we don't know where they can and can't drill or whether we can, we're going to be disadvantaged. So I think that you will have a very receptive audience in our State Department and in our administration.
What a wonderful turnout we had for last Saturday's Responsible US Global Engagement call! 184 chapter leaders and activists of CGS and our co-sponsoring organizations took time out on a Saturday to phone in and hear about our priorities for the beginning of the Obama administration, as well as those of some other organizations that are working on the same issues. Most importantly, we went over some specific ways CGS members in every state can help achieve these foreign policy goals. We want make sure our goals become priorities for the Obama administration and that our constituents play a role in drawing up policies on the United Nations, human rights, climate change and arms control. If you are a GlobalSolutions.org activist, you'll find the information in your January Partners for Global Change Toolkit. Others who would like to get involved can find out how by emailing Laura Hendrick at Outreach@globalsolutions.org.
Sharon Kelly of Human Rights First led off our call with a great assessment of the prospects for achieving some important human rights goals during the next few months. HRF will be working to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and ensure that the detainees are moved to prisons where they can have regular access to attorneys. HRF also wants to shut down the military tribunal system and try the detainees in the regular court system. Another goal they're optimistic about achieving is increasing accountability for US contractors overseas; they've drawn up a detailed blueprint for this which you can find on their website. Finally, they're asking the new president to issue an executive order prohibiting torture.
I'm always excited about our bi-monthly Partners for Global Change calls, but I'm especially excited about the one coming up this Saturday. First of all, it comes during the opening week of the 111th Congress, one where we have more supporters for our positions of increased cooperative global engagement than ever. But I'm even more excited about the fact that members of many other organizations will be joining us for a special "Responsible US Global Engagement" conference call.
In a rapid introduction to Capitol Hill, this week I attended the Swearing In Ceremonies for many members of Congress. I began my internship with GlobalSolutions.org [CGS] on Monday, January 5th and found that the next day, I would be attending the Swearing In Ceremonies. Immediately after arrival to the office in the morning, I left with Don Kraus, Bob Enholm, and Richard Thelen, for the first of many parties on "the Hill". The first member of Congress I met that day was Betty Sutton, the representative from the 13th District of Ohio. I was immediately impressed by her forward and friendly manner. Don discussed CGS and we left one of her staff members with a folder that we had prepared. The folder contained information on CGS and letters to the new members of Congress. Throughout the day we would explain CGS as a national non-profit membership group. Our goals are making the United States a more positive international force. We stated our priorites for the upcoming year and shared our excitement for the beginning of a new Congress and a new Presidential Administration. Meeting Congresswoman Sutton was only the beginning of what would be a long day of networking, eating, and doing our best to promote CGS.
GlobalSolutions.org had a great day on Tuesday, as we welcomed many members of Congress to the 111th Congress! Our staff made the rounds of the Swearing-In Receptions, personally greeting and speaking with over 30 Senators and Representatives as they began the new session. What made it even more satisfying was the very high level of enthusiasm we heard for our goals. The congressional representatives we met with thanked us for the support our members were able to give them through the Global Solutions PAC . With so many friends in place, we're even more optimistic now that we will soon see some action on our top goals.
One of the ones we hope to achieve is ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty. I was able to raise the issue with Senator John Kerry at his reception yesterday. As the man likely to be the next leader of the powerful Foreign Relations committee, his support will be key to getting the bill onto the floor for a vote. I expect to meet with his staff soon to talk more about this.
Tom Perriello won in a ridiculously tight race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. Long thought a hard seat to win from incumbent Virgil Goode, Perriello succeeded with a razor thin margin. You may remember Goode as the Congressman who railed against Muslims in general and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) in particular in 2006 and 2007. His vitriol alienated voters across the country who sought a new way in the 2008 elections. Looking solely at Global Solutions issues, Goode received two F's and two D-'s over the last four years. Not the kind of Representative we'd like to see.
On the other hand, Tom Perriello could be our poster child for an ideal challenger. He fully supports our issues, including funding the UN, addressing climate change, working with the ICC, supporting UNEPS and opposing new nuclear weapons. His background is ideal, having worked in Sierra Leone with child soldiers, pro-democracy groups, and aided in the post-civil war peace and reconciliation process. He also served as special advisor and spokesman for the prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Perriello pulled together an amazing campaign with volunteers throughout the district and strong fundraising. Global Solutions had backed candidates in this district in the past two election cycles, but our candidates hadn't come close to beating Goode. This time around, a great globally-minded candidate who we backed from the beginning, took on an anti-internationalist Goliath and won. We're looking forward to working with Rep.-elect Perriello.
In 2006, just like Eric Massa in upstate New York, Mary Jo Kilroy lost a tight race in Ohio's 15th District. Her race in the Columbus suburbs wasn't decided until mid-December of that year. This time around, she got her victory. The race wasn't a rematch since her 2006 opponent has retired. But, she battled state Senator Steve Stivers in a contest that stretched long past Election Day. It was worth the wait. Congresswoman-elect Kilroy will be joining the incoming freshmen class of the 111th Congress.
Steve Stivers wouldn't answer our candidate questionnaire, but from his campaign site, it appeared he wasn't interested in our global solutions. Kilroy, on the other hand, filled out both our '06 and '08 questionnaires. She wants to tackle climate change, opposes torture, supports the Geneva Conventions, opposes developing new nuclear weapons and offered to cosponsor a UNEPS resolution, if it is introduced in the 111th Congress. We look forward to working with Rep.-elect Kilroy next year.