UPDATE: The video of Enough’s John Prendergast and Joel Madden’s panel at the Campus Progress National Conference is now available to watch on YouTube. Check it out, and then visit RAISE Hope for Congo to get involved in the movement to help end the widespread sexual violence affecting women and girls in the world’s deadliest conflict.
July 10 — This week’s Campus Progress National Conference ended on a high note with the compelling words of President Bill Clinton. Addressing a room packed with more than 1,300 activists and student leaders, President Clinton issued a call for this inspired generation to respond to the question ‘how do we deliver change?’ by dreaming up creative answers.
If you come up with enough of them, you’re going to live in the most interesting time in human history.
‘Delivering Change’ was the theme of the 5th annual conference, which drew on the excitement and great potential of the new team in the White House but also reminded activists that now is an important time to keep the pressure on. With experience as Clinton’s chief-of-staff and as co-chair of the Obama transition team, Center for American Progress President John Podesta is one to listen to when it comes to implementing a progressive agenda on health care, climate change, and human rights:
Will people stay engaged and fight for change?… Will we set the bar high? The process of getting the bar high is crawling on your belly, working for those small victories… Now is the time to fight… This is the challenge of today’s generation.
These morning remarks from Podesta set the tone for a motivational and substantive plenary revisited throughout the day. Enough’s John Prendergast and Joel Madden, vocalist and guitarist for the band Good Charlotte, were the feature presenters of the lunchtime session, where they discussed the role of the conflict minerals trade in fueling violence in eastern Congo and called on conscientious consumers to compel electronics companies to produce rape-free cell phones. Some other notable people and issues that took the stage included (hat tip to Drew Seman at Campus Progress for the concise sum-up):
Speaker Pelosi – [On health care:] We will have a public option! SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE
John Oliver of “The Daily Show” – Daily Show ≠ Journalism. Cable News is mind numbingly awful.
Health Secretary Sebelius – We can’t let the next generation have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Van Jones, Special Advisor for green jobs at the White House – Our generation has already made an impact. Green = Good.
The participants at the conference were generous with their standing ovations and seemed eager to take the inspiration they drew from the all-star line-up of speakers back to their campuses and communities.
As the campaign manager for RAISE Hope for Congo, Enough’s Candice Knezevic moderated the panel and breakout session that focused on human rights. Her panel included Judithe Registre of Women for Women International, journalist Jimmie Briggs, and Adam Sterling of the Genocide Intervention Network. Each spoke, respectively, about his or her work to empower women socially, economically, and politically; lead initiatives to combat violence against women by engaging men, hip hop artists, and athletes; and direct efforts to compel investors to divest from genocide-supporting companies. The broad scope of these efforts – and the passion exhibited by individuals behind them – demonstrates that even if one doesn’t work in the field of social justice, a lot can be accomplished by individuals adjusting their lifestyles to promote human rights, much in the same way that society is shifting to promote green living. Preventing crimes against humanity can be part of our lifestyle, Candice said. “It should be part of everything we do.”
Reflecting on the experience, Candice said:
The energy at the Campus Progress conference, and specifically in the Human Rights panel, was palpable. It was so inspiring to be surrounded by hundreds of students who I am now quite certain will be delivering change on some of the biggest issues facing us today, from global warming to combating crimes against humanity in Congo, Darfur, and around the world.
Indeed, there is no shortage of domestic and international issues deserving of diligent attention from America’s young activists.
But riding the momentum generated by President Obama’s ascent to the White House, and armed with the skills and tools to connect, communicate, and organize across boundaries like never before – tools like Twitter, which was in full effect at the conference – it is indeed, “a great time to be young,” as Bill Clinton said. “America has its mojo back.”