Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Memories from 2007-"The Churchlady goes to Washington DC"

The Churchlady Goes to Washington originally posted July 3, 2007

Just when I think God has done all that he could possibly do to bless me, he out does Himself and blesses me some more!Last week was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. I had the privilege of hosting 10 youth from Chicago ages 14-18 to the Nation's capital to speak to lawmakers there. The youth were a part of a Youth Empowerment Summit hosted by World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization based in Federal Way, WA.

They traveled to D.C. out of their concern with the growing number of young people killed in Chicago over the past school year(35) by gun related violence. The delegation, "The Chi-Town Crew" visited with Congressmen Danny K. Davis (Dem 7th District) and Bobby Rush (Dem 1st District), and Senator Barack Obama. We also visited Cong Jesse Jackson, Jr's office and spoke with his office staff and legislative aides. They were kind enough to give audience to the delegation and encouraged them. We also watched the tv monitor while Cong Jackson addressed the House in support of Peotone Airport. Several of the youth saw him briefly in his office after he returned from the floor.Each of the youth read prepared statements to their reps, that painted pictures of what their lives have become due to gun violence. After pointing out the problems, the youth each read 3 recommendations for policy change. I especially appreciated how each of our US Congressmen and their reps gave their undivided attention to the youth and allowed each of them to present their ideas.

After this meeting our tour guide took us on the undergound journey from the House of Representatives to the Senate. There were trains to ride and tunnels to navigate, but the kids were so excited to participate in the adventure (personally, my feet were killing me but my shoes were sharp...). Along the way we met Congresswoman Carolyn Kirkpatrick of Detroit. She is the mom of Mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick of Detroit. She was very down to earth and encouraging to the kids. Although she was in a hurry, she stopped to pose with them for photos and was very generous with hugs for everyone. After meeting her we were even more excited about our meeting with the our Senator Barack Obama.

After walking for what seemed like hours (actually about 25 minutes of total travel between buildings) we arrived at Senator Obama's office. His staff greeted us and alerted us that although the Senator originally had 30 minutes, he now had only five left. We had used all of our time travelling between buildings--Can you imagine!

The staff suggested that we may want to use the five minutes as a photo op. The kids quickly decided that even five minutes with the senator listening to the issues was worth more than a photo op. We stood in the hallway while the kids decided that one student would speak for everyone and that would be Stephen Hudson or Claiborne Wade and Sharlisa Brooks if there was time.
We then proceeded into Senator Obama's inner offices and he stood in the doorway and greeted each of us personally, issuing handshakes and hugs--it was a very personal touch and it took three minutes. Once we were inside, Senator Obama had the kids sit and the adults stand. In addition to myself there was a parent volunteer, Virgil Hudson and Romanita Hairston, a VP from World Vision and Lena, another WV co-worker.

Senator Obama then asked the kids, "So, what y'all wanna talk to me about?" One of the youth explained how disturbing the recent rash of youth killings in Chicago had been to them--so much so until decided that they had to travel to DC to offer some possible solutions to our lawmakers.
Intrigued, Senator Obama had one of his staffers to bring him a chair and he sat amongst the kids and allowed the presentation for the next 27 minutes; along with dialog and questions related to his service to the youth as the possible next President of the United States. I cried as I watched the interaction between the kids and Obama. I was so incredibly proud of them both. Two of the kids were already registered voters. After explaining that he needed to get back to the Senate floor, he asked if the kids were interested in a photo . They took lots of photos with him and then we took a group photo.

In a word this experience was 'da bomb!" Senator Barack Obama is personable and warm. He is also very thoughtful and accommodating. Although I had met Senator Obama on several other occasions in Chicago, this meeting in the nation's capital is the one that will stand out in mind mind.