Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Washington DC: First Day of M2EP

For the last four years, I have been able to attend some of the most intellectually stimulating conferences around the country because the church I work at (and community I am a part of) values the continuing of my education. I have been able to learn about economics and how to be a better grassroots organizer in our nation's capital, studied adolescent development in Sacramento with fellow youth workers, and learned about immigration in Tijuana while staying with recently deported migrants. This year, I attended Sojourners' Mobilization to End Poverty (M2EP) in Washington DC. I am a firm believer that a good conference experience includes three components: education, experience, and fun. The following entries are from my trip at the end of April 2009.

One of the most wonderful things about DC is the public transit system. Each morning i would grab my i-pod and walk from Arlington (where I was staying), pass Iwo Jima, and hop on the Metro to get to the Convention Center. The energy was palpable as people of all ages rubbed shoulders, squeezed into the underground train, and left for work.

As the conference began, we heard from Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rich Stearns (the President of World Vision, and Jim Wallis (founder/President of Sojourners). I have been to a few anti-poverty conferences and have heard plenty of talks about the movement to end hunger, but never have I heard speakers so optimistic. Wallis' words were moving as he talked about how people in the anti-poverty movement have been "sowing seeds for a long time," (Wallis himself has been arrested 22 times for protesting policy and budgets that affected the poor). His voice slowly grew to a roar as he called activists of all ages and experience to "reap what we have sown!" His optimism drew from his experiences of the first 100 days of the new administration. The President's budget had just been unveiled and passed, and he received a phone call from the White House asking if they left anything out. For the first time since Wallis could remember, it included programs for the poor, foreign aid, and reflected the values of the Christian call to "take care of the least of these" in Matthew 25.

You can read a great Washington Post article about the morning here.

And watch this 2005 interview with Jim Wallis on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This was the first time I had heard him.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Jim Wallis
Daily Show
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Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Next up was a panel of three people from the Obama administration-
Josh Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership; Van Jones, special adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; and Martha Coven, director of the White House Office of Mobility and Opportunity. It was great to hear about the White House's platform to fight poverty. I especially enjoyed hearing Van Jones (a TIME Magazine 100 Most Influential People nominee) talk about the creation of a green-collar economy- using the current environmental crisis as a launching pad for job creation. This got me even more excited about our high school trip to Chicago...the Windy City is leading the country in finding innovative ways to fight poverty through environmental justice.

You can read the TIME 100 article on Van Jones by Leonardo DiCaprio here.
My day concluded with an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/ELCA (the denomination Nativity is a part of) sponsored happy hour at a local micro-brewery. While I usually am quite skeptical of ELCA functions, this was reallt great. I mean, after all...whose not gonna enjoy free rounds of beer??? Since I got lost and arrived late, I sat with some of the presenters at the conference. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Bob Francis from the DC advocacy office of the ELCA; Alexia Salvatierra who serves as executive director of C.L.U.E. (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) in Los Angeles; and Rachel Anderson from the Boston Faith and Justice Network and recipient of this year's Organizer Award. I kind of felt a little out of my league, but really enjoyed the connections and felt like I was able to contribute a perspective on mobilizing youth for social justice.

I often struggle with labeling myself "Christian" or "Lutheran" or even "Youth Minister." This is mostly because of the unfortunate reputation that precedes us in Central Oregon. After this first day, I was reminded that I share faith with some really great people out in the world representing well. People who are inclusive, who are fighting for those not often heard in society, who promote peace and justice as a way of life.

To all I met in DC...keep fighting the good fight!

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