Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012 11:01:59 PM
A few weeks ago, I knocked on the door of Pittsburgh Congressman Mike Doyle. Even to me, it seemed crazy that four teenagers were about to try to persuade the government to take action against the LRA. Yet when I left the room that day, despite knowing I hadn’t changed American politics, something within me had.
My friends and I traveled to DC to work against the LRA. Made famous by the video KONY2012, the Lord’s Resistance Army has been fighting in Africa to overthrow the Ugandan government. Kony, the leader of the army, believes it is God’s mission, so he will do whatever it takes- including abducting children to brainwash into soldiers when they are as young as five years old. Some children are forced to murder their own families.
I was horrified upon hearing of these atrocities, but initially felt like a sixteen-year-old can’t save doomed foreigners. Then my friend decided to join the organization Invisible Children in an event in DC, where we would lobby and rally. I went along, but had doubts that a congressman would listen to us. I can’t even vote.
Unsurprisingly, the congressman was unavailable. Instead, we explained our objectives to his legislative director: to keep already-present American advisors in Africa, to increase the reward for information leading to Kony’s arrest, and to provide $60 million towards recovery and ending the conflict. The director was remarkably receptive.
Then she asked why we believe in the cause. I am typically quiet, but I pushed my voice out of reluctant lungs, and explained: it is hard to believe in change, when I am so young, tackling a problem so big. But everyone who changed something was “crazy.” Everyone was young— if not in age, in their idealism. We read about Martin Luther King and think he was unquestionably right. Ideas become black and white upon entering history textbooks, read by students who only think the way we do because someone once challenged the conventional thought. However, in their time, those same ideas were grey and complicated. Getting involved in another country’s conflict is complicated, but will it be grey when it’s all over? Suddenly, I felt sure of what I was asking for, despite most telling us it couldn’t happen. Elementary school posters said “Never Give Up” and “Anything is Possible,” but as I grow up, I am told those myths are as real as the tooth fairy. I am young enough to believe them anyway, and old enough to know our greatest leaders believed them too.
Everyone deserves human rights, but first we must demand them. I know one conversation did not transform foreign policy, but I believe that one voice among many can propel change. Anytime you set up a meeting with your representatives, you have a chance to make your issues heard. Perhaps the biggest change was one that occurred in me: I am just a quiet sixteen-year-old, but ever since that day, I have never felt so loud.