One year ago, I was privileged to be part of a small group of committed activists as they rallied together in Oklahoma City, hoping to convince one senator to help save a piece of legislation called the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. That small, motley crew of activists represented tens of thousands of you, all across the country who had worked tirelessly for more than a year to see that legislation passed and to see U.S. policymakers take needed action to help finally end the violence perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?
In January of 2010, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed a “hold” on legislation that would require President Obama to take action to stop the violence being perpetrated by the LRA against families in central Africa. With the Senator’s hold posing a huge threat to the bill’s passage, Resolve sounded the alarm bells.
Almost immediately, activists from around the country grabbed their sleeping bags and backpacks and made their way to Oklahoma City. On February 26, 2010, we rallied together at the State Capitol and marched to The Chase Building, Coburn’s downtown office, where we delivered hundreds of letters asking “Dr. No” to please say yes and remove his hold on the bill.
For the next 12 days and nights, through biting Midwest winds and subfreezing temperatures, activists camped out in front of the Chase Building, committed to “hold out” as long as he did.
And then, on the morning of March 9, 2010….victory! Coburn agreed to a compromise and removed his hold on the bill.
We put up one heck of a fight to make sure the bill didn’t die because we knew potential costs of failure and we knew that any struggle, any sacrifice, was absolutely worth it – and just plain right – in light of the lives that the legislation could affect. The amazing thing is, it worked! Our united voices made major waves in D.C.
The success of the Oklahoma Holdout was a historic moment in the journey to see the LRA crisis ended once and for all. I think I speak for all those who held out in OKC when I say that it’s been an encouragement to reflect back on that remarkable chapter in a larger story that continues to unfold.
p.s. Here are a few reflections from some of those amazing Holdout participants, one year later:
“What I remember most about my experience in Oklahoma City is the support and encouragement we received from people all around the country. During those times when we doubted the effectiveness of what we were doing, someone brought us food or sent an email or a new person arrived from a far-away state. They reminded us that we have the privilege to plead the case for those who have no voice, that it was about more than just getting the legislation passed, and that regardless of the outcome, these children were worth it.” – John Parkhurst
“Not all social activists are hipsters; some of us slept on the concrete and dressed hurriedly into slacks and a tie before working an 8 to 5 job. The Holdout community demonstrates a nonsensical love that can turn the world right-side-up, because it unites dissimilar people with a similar mission.” – Robert Hurlocker
“I have never met a family quite like the people I met at the Holdout a year ago, and I could never imagine one I’d rather be a part of. This Holdout family, proved to me that there is a love like no other that is embedded in the hearts of people spread all across the nation, and that we can come together in that love and do what is seemingly impossible. It is what continues to drive us to sacrifice time or comfort so that our brothers and sisters across the world can know that we stand with them; to know that their lives are just as important as ours.” – Jannelle Breeding
“The holdout was more than just convincing Senator Coburn to say yes, it was when a lot of us woke up to how much we still had to learn. In Oklahoma, I watched the effects of a father telling his son he was proud of him for the first time, a deli worker spend his hard earned money on feeding the crazy young people outside the building, a hungry demonstrator give his lunch to the homeless man down the street, and the list goes on. I learned how powerful a community can be, how passion can carry you through the most frustrating times, and that I’ve gained the best friends I could ask for.” – Abby Freeman
“Through the Holdout I learned that nothing can come between those with common purpose and who stand together on principles of love, service and integrity, even if they start their journey as perfect strangers. Something was ignited inside us through that experience – the need to be active in seeking a solution to the conflicts in our lives instead of remaining a spectator. I hope none of us ever lose that spark and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.” – Liz Gould