By: Natalie O’Brien, AAFSC Votes 2012 Campaign Assistant
As part of our ‘Meet Your Representatives’ series over the past two weeks, our Court St offices have played host to an illustrious list of local Council members – Dr. Mathieu Eugene, Brad Lander and Sara González – as well as the “authentic voice of Brooklyn” herself, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke.
Over coffee, donuts and za’atar, each representative has offered their unique and fascinating insight into the workings of the US political system and the importance of democratic participation.
Council member Eugene, as an immigrant himself, spoke inspirationally on the challenges of adapting to life in the US and the subsequent growth of his interest in politics as a way to actively contribute to American society.
Mr Lander articulated the challenges and frustrations of co-chairing the Council’s Progressive Caucus, pointing to their ongoing battle to have racial profiling in policing recognized as a fundamental problem.
Ms González impressed us with her charisma and vigor, speaking as a strong, intelligent woman on female empowerment and gender equality.
Finally, Yvette Clarke explained how her unique experiences growing up in an immigrant family informs her political decision-making, outlining her position as an ardent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.
In return, our students have posed some challenging questions. These have ranged from neighborhood concerns about a noisy nightclub, to whether the US is legitimately committed to bolstering and upholding democratic values in the Middle East, to ways in which the government can hold local schools and hospitals accountable in their provision of migrant services.
These morning teas have been thought-provoking, rewarding and an important exercise in asking ourselves what issues matter to us, what type of society do we want to be and how do we communicate these priorities to our leaders so that they are better equipped to represent us.
Our mandate in these final weeks of the AAFSC Votes 2012 campaign has been: Engage. Educate. Inspire. I truly believe that these morning teas have made great leaps on each of these fronts.