Hello all! My name is Charlie Harris. I am a junior at Western Kentucky University and an AIDemocracy Regional Coordinator for the Central Region (MN, WI, MI, IL, IN, OH, KY, TN, AR, LA, MS, AL). Though I’ve been working with the AIDemocracy network for over two years now, this is my first time to blog for The World InSight. WKU AID has had an awesome year this year, and I wanted to take a few minutes to share one of our successes.

This year, we decided to focus our chapter energies on the issue of modernizing US foreign assistance.  Though the US is the largest net donor of foreign assistance, current legislation is 50 years old, reflecting Cold War politics, and offers no strategy for meeting the global development and security challenges of today.

Back in August, we planned and in-district lobby meeting with Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and introduced him to HR 2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. We discussed the legislation and asked for his co-sponsorship, which he seemed pretty sure of at the time, pending a reading the full text of the bill when he made it back to DC.

After following up for around a month with his staff, we received a letter from Rep. Guthrie thanking us for showing our support for the legislation, but letting us know that he was going to wait until it reached the House floor before taking any action. We could have easily turned away and let the issue be, but instead we took it as a call to action.

WKU AID members began calling, writing, emailing, and faxing the Congressman’s DC office as constituents of his 2nd District here in Kentucky, reiterating our request for him to sign on to HR 2139.

While Guthrie supporting the resolution on the floor was important, for a member of Congress to cosponsor and support a piece of legislation helps get the bill to the floor. It also helps bring along other colleagues, as the member of Congress would talk to each other about the legislation.  So, we kept planning next steps and ways to get the community and campus involved, hoping to get Rep. Guthrie’s support as a cosponsor. 

The afternoon of December 7th I received an excited phone call from Matt Vaughan, my fellow cohort in all of this “change the world” business, in which he informed me that he had just seen on Thomas.gov (The Library of Congress’ Website for Tracking Congress) that as of December 1st, Congressman Brett Guthrie was now a cosponsor of HR 2139. I was ecstatic. Three and ½ months after first meeting with him in his Bowling Green office, and introducing him to this piece of legislation, a member of Congress had acted on our phone calls, faxes, etc., listened to our voices as both constituents and youth, and signed on to a bill in the United States Congress. Talk about empowerment!

This academic year, we at WKU AID looked at the role we play in being a constituent member and a college student and wrapped up the year with two conferences, both the International Youth Speak Out Tour sponsored by AID national and a workshop with AID partner The ONE Campaign. Both built our constituent skills of lobbying efforts and we take these lessons and the practical approaches we have taken into next year with hope of affecting more change here in the US and around the world.

We aren’t the leaders of tomorrow, as many call the youth of America. Our voices matter now, and always, throughout life your voice will always be a powerful tool here in the US, and that voice can change things for the better throughout the world. Start acting NOW to make this world a better place for both us and our global brothers and sisters around the world.