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students lobbying for international human rights in Washington, D.C., 2013

Jared Naimark, '14

Lobbying for human rights

In 2013, I led an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to Washington, D.C. After teaching a 10-week course to 12 fellow undergraduates on international human rights advocacy with my co-leader Emily Witt, we set off for a week-long exploration of our nation's capital. We met with eight different nonprofit advocacy organizations and one government agency and engaged their staff in provocative discussions centered around the question: How can we get more people to care about international human rights and take action without oversimplifying the causes of or solutions to violent conflict?

With these discussions in mind, our group set off for Capitol Hill. We were nervous and tired, and most of us had never been in a lobby meeting before. But we put on our best clothes, reviewed our notes, and stepped into the congressional offices with confidence.

We asked for the United States to cut military aid to Rwanda which had been supporting abusive insurgent groups in Eastern Congo, and also asked for human rights benchmarks to be met before the US resumed military to military relations with Burma's armed forces.

After these lobby meetings, our trip was over, but our group's commitment to transforming human rights advocacy was just beginning. Empowered by the notion that elected officials would actually care what a group of college students thought about human rights, our group was inspired to take what we learned on our trip and apply it to a diverse range of public service causes and pathways.

Jared Naimark, '14, majored in earth systems.
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