Muddy Notebook

March 5, 2008

What Obama, Darfur and Northern Uganda have in common

Filed under: U.S. politics — carolynthewriter @ 5:01 am

I’m from Ohio and I’m addicted to following this year’s presidential race, which today features the primaries in Texas and Ohio. Many people have noted that young people, many of whom have never before participated in a presidential election, have flocked to support Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running against N.Y. Sen. Hillary Clinton. But I want to tease out that bloc a little more. I think those young people are the same ones who, for the last several years, have become so active in advocacy on international humanitarian issues. The Philadelphia area, where I live, is a hotbed for student activism. Swarthmore College graduate Mark Hanis years ago started what now is called the Genocide Intervention Network, a nonprofit whose primary goal is stopping the Darfur violence and protecting civilians there. In Indiana several years back, two Notre Dame University alums – Michael Poffenberger and Peter Quaranto, started the Uganda Conflict Action Network and its spin-off, Resolve Uganda, both of which seek to end the two decade-plus war in northern Uganda that has taken such a high toll on children there.

Now, I have no idea who Quaranto, Poffenberger and Hanis are favoring for president, but at the recent Northern Uganda Lobby Days conference in Washington D.C., I saw 750 high school and college students descend enthusiastically upon the George Washington University campus for a day of workshops and panels on Northern Uganda and U.S. policy in Africa (full disclosure: I moderated two of them), and a day of lobbying senators and Congress members on Capitol Hill. I saw a fervor for social causes and an activism that I have to believe transcends their specific cause and seeps into wanting a voice in U.S. policy, and who should be in the Oval Office and on Capitol Hill formulating it.

I don’t know yet who I support for president. There are no chumps among Republican John McCain, Clinton and Obama. I do know that young people getting active – and staying active – is a very good development for the United States and the world. 

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