I remember being at the camps in 2006 on i-Act 2 just before the US Presidential Election Season kicked into high gear. Gabriel and I met a group of men, women and children from Darfur who had traveled with fire at their backs and no home in their future to get to relative safety and the total unknown world of the camps in Chad. They were tired, scared and heart broken. They’d lost loved ones, homes and a way of life during their escape. When we met them, they were waiting just outside the camp, hungry, tired and confused waiting to be processed. They seemed to be almost in a state of shock, and it was a very eye opening experience to meet them at this gateway between the life they’d known and the life they were being forced to face.
We had come with messages of hope from everyday Americans, activists and even Presidential candidates. Our new friends watched in awe as both McCain and Obama spoke of their dedication to stopping this genocide and protecting innocent civilians. You could actually see the hope being reborn in their eyes. They believed McCain and Obama. So did we. We were all one that day; we were united in hope. They had little room left for hope in their hearts after a harrowing journey and we often felt we were running out of hope ourselves on the activist front. Yet, for that day as our laptop played messages of hope from our fellow Americans and our future President hope trumped heartbreak.
I felt for the first time in a long time that perhaps we could be the leaders of the world in the way we responded to genocide. Any cynicism was gone that day as we sat there and watched those messages of solidarity and humanity. I left filled with warm hugs and tearful smiling faces burned into my memory, but I did leave. Our friends have never left that camp. They are still there, waiting for that promise of hope to be fulfilled.
I blame myself as much as any President or Senator because I too have failed in my promise of hope. I banged the drum but my arms got tired sometimes and my “to do list” got the best of me many times. I sounded the alarm but allowed myself to sleep through it on too may days. Today, I recommit to do my best to keep my promise to the very real human beings that I met and held and will never forget at that camp. I promise to do my part to remind my President and elected officials to do their part because that is my job as both an American and Global citizen.