Jodie Geddes and Alex Garrison, both Guilford College students in Greensboro, NC, joined 15 other young people in Washington DC to attend AFSC’s first Human Rights Summit June 24-28, 2013. The youth each picked topics to focus on, and each day participated in workshops giving them background on Human Rights and preparing them for speaking with US Senators and Representatives on their topics of choice. Alex and Jodie chose to focus on immigration reform, which was a hot topic; the immigration reform bill S744 passed the Senate while they were in DC. Here are their reflections on the experience.
On the train ride to DC I read a quote that stuck with me for the duration of the trip. The quote was by Mark Twain and reads: “The two most important days in your life are the days your born and the day you find out why”. From the very first day of sitting in the office the words resonated inside me and brought vibrations of excitement. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of being surrounded by so many passionate advocates of human rights. It was liberating to say the least.
On the second day I began to grasp the magnitude of what we were to do and what we could do. As the third day arrived I, to be quite honest, was feeling a little overwhelmed and undereducated in our political system. This was where the true nature of AFSC shown through though. After sharing my concerns the friend’s network branched out. [AFSC staff] Jean-Louis, Amanda, Li, Monica, Lori, and many others all helped to alleviate the pressure and gave me confidence in my ability to lobby. I realized at this point that AFSC genuinely embraced its Quaker values.
On the final day when Jody and I entered Congressmen and Senators offices I felt fully prepared to represent our issue and I believe we did. I left DC with a much more defined sense of purpose and a greater understanding of the direction I would like to take my life. Words can’t describe my gratitude. In the future I hope to continue working with AFSC, as well as uphold the values of which you guys stand for.
I attended the first AFSC Human Rights Summit along with 15 other young people from June 24-30 in DC. We focused on understanding human rights, how that linked to the work of different AFSC offices, and how to effectively communicate with policymakers. In one workshop, we were given the tools in order to make sure that our thoughts were clear and concise when speaking with legislators.
When Alex and I visited Capitol Hill there were representatives who were not clear on many of the issues surrounding immigration reform, the work we did beforehand proved to be very beneficial. In combination with this, we also learned a lot about what are human rights and how they have developed. For example, did you know that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and is still in existence? The declaration grants you as a human being 30 rights that must be honored and respected.
When I reflect on these rights I began to see the various ways that they are constantly being violated. When we talk about human rights, Article 7 stands out in my mind. “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination…”
Many of my friends, family, have this very right infringed upon each day they walk into the world. The question of security is constantly being asked. It is my duty to protect and inform my community members. I must admit this week has been a long one filled with emotions and though the end is not near there is light on this journey.