Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Because It's Their Future Part Deux

Desiree Fairooz

Whew! It was a scorcher today but that did not deter the kids from Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy. They showed up as planned with their teachers excited about seeing CODEPINK in action. Our "action tour" began at the Hart building Room 216 where we sat in on the Armed Services Committee hearing on the confirmation of Texan Pete Geren for Secretary of the Army.

Liz had been waiting for us at the entrance to the hearing room (same room where about six weeks ago Midge held up the banner above Alberto Gonzales' head that said "I have nothing to hide but the truth"). There happened to be a table outside the anteroom where we spread out the armbands we had made for the "scholars", as their teacher, Laura Kravis, prefers to call them. The armbands said "ANOTHER STUDENT FOR PEACE". Some of them wore them as armbands others as belts or lanyards. (Leave it to the next generation to see things outside the box!) The two teachers seemed to beam as they both put on their CODEPINK buttons.
Liz and I led the students to a row of empty seats (same seats used by Adam Kokesh, Geoff Millard and Cindy Sheehan when they protested Gonzales' "I don't recall"s). Liz and I sat at the inner edge of the aisle, as good CODEPINKERS do for easy access and visibility.

It just so happened that the man being nominated for the Secretary of the Army position is a Texan and that both my Texas senators were in the room. Kay Bailey Hutchison testified that Geren is a good man with a history of service to his country as a congressman, etc, etc, and so forth. She was seated next to him at the witness table. I guess this meant he is worthy of confirmation. (Do you feel my pain?)

As Senator Hutchison rose to leave the room, it dawned on me that I would have the rare opportunity to speak with her. I jumped out of my seat, practically losing my slip-on shoe in the process to sidle up to her. Sticking my hand out for a quick hand shake, which she took, I accompanied her as she exited the room behind her aid. (I don't think he realized that I or anyone had any intentions or else he would have surely blocked my access.) Senator Hutchison seemed quite taken aback by my proximity and remained speechless as I introduced myself and explained why I had come all the way from Texas to gain her ear. We were nearing the hallway when her aid stepped back to tell me that that was enough, or something to that effect. I returned to the room where the students were patiently paying attention to Carl Levin chair the confirmation hearing.

My other senator, Senator John Cornyn, another Republican Bushite, spoke from his seat at the dais regurgitating what Kay Bailey said. No sooner had he finished his spiel, he rose followed by an aid to exit the room, also in my direction! Yippee! A two-fer, I thought. I did the exact same thing by catching up to Cornyn at the rear door of the hearing room but he had an answer prepared for me, "Have you forgotten about 9/11?" I replied as calmly as I could muster, walking fast to keep up, "Everyone knows, Senator that the hijackers were Saudi and Egyptian NOT Iraqi. Don't try to use that on me. Do you really think all Americans are THAT ignorant?!" He turned away from me out the foyer into the hallway with nothing more to say.

While I had been out of the room, the infamous Senator Joe Lieberman had entered the room. I did not notice him until I had sat down next to Ms. Kravis to see how the kids were doing. Upon realizing that the Senator responsible for insulting the nation of Iran and sending CODEPINKERS shivers up our spines at the thought of more military strikes was in the room I told Ms. Kravis that I needed to make a sign. I moved near Liz and we both proceeded to write on our hot pink paper, DONT IRAQ IRAN in huge bold letters. When Lieberman finally gave me eye contact, I waved my sign at him. He actually gave me a brief smile. (So wierd! I guess he still thinks of us as his CODEPINK friends.)

Soon after, Ms. Kravis indicated that her students wanted to move on to the next hearing. We, Liz, I and Mabel, who had joined us proceeded down the hall to the stairwell connecting us to the Dirkesen building. Mary Tyler Moore and a former NBA basketball player who's name escapes me testified about the need for government assistance for juvenile diabetes. We ran into Carl Levin who, hunched over as he was, still managed to speed walk between hearings.

This room, a huge one, was packed with observers, press and many children wearing t-shirts with the logo of the organization sponsoring the witnesses. We did not stay long due to the students tight schedule and their desire to get into Senator Barack Obama's office.

After returning to the Hart building we took the elevator up to the 7th floor. Coincidentally, the Senator was on TV as we entered room 713. His staff looked on curiously as we led the students and their teachers into the already busy office. Ms Kravis mentioned with pride that she was from Illinois, the state the senator represented.

It appeared that staffers were coming and going. A young African-American man approaching the desk from behind closed doors seemed genuinely interested in the group so after telling him about us, I asked him to introduce himself to the class and share with us what he did for the senator. He explained that he was a summer intern, only 20 years old and that his job was to handle phones and other communications and that he would return to college in August. He smiled and answered a few questions and promised to share the comments that students Reina Guzman and others had for the senator.

From here we proceeded on to the tunnels below the senate offices so as to stay out of the suffocating heat and reach Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's office without breaking a sweat. We were received equally inquisitively there and waited about ten minutes to speak with Joshua Williams her Legislative Aid on Foreign Affairs, who seemed, by the way, not much older than the kids from Chavez. Nor did he seem at all bothered by the fact that he spent about 30 minutes speaking with CODEPINKERS the day before.

Aditya Nepali, a young man who mentioned to Liz that he would be visiting his grandmother in Nepal this summer, spoke quite eloquently about how they had been studying the facts on Iraq and that there were differing opinions amongst the group. Darryl Robinson suggested that each religious faction, the Kurds, the Shias and the Sunni should each have their own country in order to stop the sectarian violence. Mr. Williams replied that this is an opinion that has been spoken by senators also. Several of the students seemed reluctant to talk to this man who was not much older than they so we asked to take a picture with him which he gladly did. Too bad Senator Clinton is not as warm as her aid. I asked if he would tell the Senator that we stopped by and reminded him that these were students for peace. He assured us that our visit would be communicated. With a smile and warm handshakes we said goodbye.
Our morning was flying by, so after a quick granola bar gift from Ms. Kravis, we hiked in the heat and glare of the summer sun over to the House side of Capitol Hill. There we arrived a tad bit late to the Hip Hop Caucus press briefing on torture. Reverend Yearwood nodded in approval as we entered and quietly took two rows of seats at the rear of room 2237, (I think!) while the ex-military chaplain implored us to rise up against Jim Crow, Jr. Esq. just as both blacks and whites did in the Civil Rights movement. He then introduced our heroine, Barbara Lee, who after recognizing the various social justice groups represented in the room, reminded us all that in a not too distant past, she lived the struggle of the Civil Rights movement. Both Rev. Yearwood and Congresswoman Lee spoke to upholding the Constitution, the need to restore Habeas Corpus and the closure of Guantanamo. (Ms. Kravis sent around to her students a sheet of paper on which she had written an explanation of the situation in Guantanamo.) During the applause for the Congresswoman, we filed out of the hearing room into the hall. Seconds later, Ms. Lee appeared walking briskly with her aid. Liz greeted her excitedly so that she agreed to pose with the kids. "We love you!" We shouted as she waved back after the picture.

Exuberant with hungry teens in tow, we practically skipped to the cafeteria for lunch and banter before heading home, each group on to it's next appointment, Liz and I with the Dallas Morning News photographer and Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy students with a soldier recently returned from Iraq.


JimPreston said...

Sounds like a great day!! I think we can get a lot more students down there, now that you and Liz know exactly what to do.
Code Pink For Peace!!

Carol Ezell said...

You have provided a meaningful learning experience for those children! Next time I'm in DC, I
am going to follow YOU around:)
Keep up the GREAT work with CODE PINK!

Linda Foley said...

Des, I LOVE you! What a GREAT day!

I had my own run-ins with Pete Geren back when he was my Congressman after replacing Jim Wright. He never voted right on Central America nor understood the issue of the SOA (School of the Americas).

Next time you run into him in his new role, be sure and give him my regards and tell him I am praying that he will eventually see the light....altho at the rate this adminstration is going, it will probably be the brilliant flash of a nuclear warhead over Iran!

Geren was actually at the Pentagon on 9-11 and as I recall, had just left with Kay Granger when the plane hit. I think that tells you where his head will be.