On Changing the World: One Phone Call at a Time
I recently decided to invite a group of high school friends over for a small party/BBQ. I have not seen most of them for almost a year, and despite many efforts by others to get us all together, the summer was quickly approaching its end. Finally, I said to heck with it, and within 15 minutes had contacted everyone I wanted, received confirmations for most of them, and had commitments for food and beverages. By the end of the day I had confirmations from everyone, for the next day no less. When I told one of my friends, he was flabbergasted: “We’ve been trying this for the whole summer and nothing has actually happened.” To which I replied: “Man, I have been an organizing intern at Bread for the World for the whole summer. If there is anything I know how to do its make phone calls and get people to do stuff.”
I was asked to write a quick blog post to sum up my internship here, and in true college student style I am doing it with around an hour to go. So as I type madly, attempting to diligently fulfill this last request, I really cannot help but realize the truly amazing experiences that I have had while working here. It has been a remarkable summer.
I have made more phone calls this summer than anyone in their right mind makes in a year. Requesting meetings, asking Bread members to make more phone calls in order to get Congressmen (and women) to sign on to cosponsor H.R. 2139 (which got 100 cosponsors yay! Thanks to all who put up with me interrupting their afternoons and made the call), requesting information on Offerings of Letters, making sure that my recent attempts at journalism meet Bread’s standards, etc. etc. The phone and I are now best of friends, and bitter enemies.
Whether it be typing up a new blog post, doing the research for said blog post, doing research in general about foreign aid reform, or sending yet another e-mail request to that recalcitrant Congressman, my computer and I have also spent countless hours together. Though we remain friends, it is often a tense relationship, especially when dealing with an Excel spreadsheet or a troublesome Word document.
Oh, and the traffic, let’s not forget Los Angeles rush-hour traffic! Phew!
Of course I exaggerate my sorrows, for they serve as a brilliant foil to my joys. I have had the chance to meet with 5 different congressional offices, meet a top foreign policy staffer, experience a weekend of learning and advocacy in Washington D.C., help to celebrate 35 years of Bread for the World’s mission, learn more about foreign aid than I ever could have imagined, help an important bill gain traction, and have gained real experience working as an organizer for an organization that does an incredible amount of good in this world.
What Bread for the World does is not sexy. It’s not one of the media-friendly causes that people love to read about. It is long, hard work. It is a movement for real change in the lives of the hungry, and it is a cause that, while it may take decades, actually can make a difference. But it takes the work of dedicated people; people who understand that this work is a slow grind against the structures of a world that does not want change. A world that believes in complacency while others suffer, a world that says, in no uncertain terms: “You are but one person, you cannot change anything.” I will say right now, one person makes all the difference. One call can change the mind of one Congressman, who can change the mind of a committee, which can change the mind of the House, which can change the mind of the U.S. Government, which can change the mind of the world.
I want to thank Bread for the World for showing me the true power of the grassroots and the power that one person has to break the stagnancy of the world.
Kaj Pedersen is an international relations major at Claremont McKenna College in California, he has been interning at the California Regional Office of Bread for the World for the summer. He now is retiring in order to write papers and run desperately everyday in an attempt to get in shape for football season.
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