March 14th, 2006

I’m a bit of a nudge when it comes to telling people that all change begins with an individual deciding that they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. Margaret Mead was absolutely right when she said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

So, I was not the least surprised when I read about Sam Bell and Mark Hanis in The New Republic:

We treat genocides like natural disasters, and we throw bags of rice at the problem, says Hanis, who, like Bell, graduated last spring. We wanted to treat genocide as a security issue.

It was an out-of-the-box, arguably ludicrous idea — college students passing the hat to support a military force for a foreign intervention — but the idea got people’s attention. After pitching the concept to a host of foreign policy luminaries — I’d pull all-nighters e-mailing former secretaries of state, says Hanis, whose prior political outreach experience included running for Swarthmore’s student council — a number of them, such as Roméo Dallaire and Samantha Power, gave GI-Net their endorsements, as did several members of Congress.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, gave the group office space. And, most importantly, hundreds of people started giving GI-Net money. Students at Cornell University hosted a special showing of Hotel Rwanda, raising $5,000 for the group. A Mamaroneck, New York, high school held a battle of the bands. And a Salt Lake City piano teacher donated two weeks’ worth of earnings.

A year after Hanis and Sniderman first conceived of the idea during an International Club dinner in the college dining hall, GI-Net had collected $250,000 to support the Darfur peacekeepers (and an additional $250,000 to support GI-Net’s operations). Now the group’s members just needed to figure out how to spend the funds. But, as they soon discovered, raising money to stop a genocide is a lot easier than giving it away.

So, put your television on the tree lawn and go do something, no matter how small. We all matter.

My Soundtrack: Vodiak by Stereolab on WOXY.

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