Learning, lobbying & mingling: Top volunteers meet at the 2013 ONE Power Summit

ONE’s annual Power Summit brings together ONE’s congressional district leaders, campus leaders and top volunteers to one place, Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Here, members are motivated and energized, pushed to work actively to effect change in the world around them. With 35 states represented and 210 members present, the conference spanned over four days and ended with a powerful day of advocacy on Capitol Hill. Weren’t able to make it? Don’t worry, we’ve got a day-by-day account below.

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Gallaudet University, home of the ONE Power Summit. Photo credit: Dani Bernal

Sunday:

Gallaudet University was buzzing with energy the first morning, filled with ONE congressional district leaders (CDLs),campus leaders and top volunteers. With a boost of coffee, the events kicked off bright and early and the speakers started inspiring from the beginning.

Matt Higginson, ONE Senior Manager of College Organizing, and Suzanne Granville, ONE Field Director, started the summit with objectives of purpose-filled lives. Inspiring ONE members to be “change agents”, they left the crowd both inspired and in hysterics. They were followed by Senior Director of US Campaigns Laurie Moskowitz‘s push for understanding “the why of what we do” and a call to keep our heads up as advocates, pushing forward in our missions. Garth Moore, ONE’s Digital Director, led a tech-savvy discussion of digital media, where all techies got to unite in a love of Star Wars and the digital world.

Former ONE Member of the Month Becky Corbett called the conference awesome, noting how exciting it is to convene in one place and find out what is happening in the upcoming year. The sentiment was shared across all of the attendees from Becker College in Massachusetts, with the collective agreeing that being in such a love fest was tremendously inspiring for the year ahead.

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Cleve Jones and ONE member Kamra Sadia Hakim. Photo Credit: Kamra Sadia Hakim 

The inspiration only continued with the emotionally compelling keynote speaker, Cleve Jones, AIDS activist and former adviser to Harvey Milk. The lunch was stilled in his presence and as the crowds spilled out of the dining room, people were eager to share their anecdotes of how he reached their hearts and challenged them to live a life of activism.

Georgia CDL Nancy Barfield Bauer called him amazing and tremendous, noting that his story made her wish she could do it over again and live a life as committed to a cause as his own. UVA Campus leader Doan Phan also spoke to his moving speech, touching most on his empathy and the connectivity he inspired. Her friend Nora Toh agreed wholeheartedly, attributing her inspiration to Cleve’s insistence that the most ordinary people can do the most extraordinary things.

There was a consistent theme in the room: a newfound motivation to “hit the pavement” – apply what they’ve learned about activism to the real world. Washington ONE member Sharnessa Sanden told us, the members took away not just words but “a new vision, a new motivation, a new excitement”. She spoke excitedly about the two fundamentals learned this weekend: success in advocacy comes from establishing relationships and identifying what it is one is passionate about. Letting that passion come alive, breathing life into that vision, is the integral aspect of the walk with ONE.

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Camaron Engels, ONE member and high school activist. Photo Credit: Maegan Ramirez 

Our afternoon continued with vibrant speaker Camaron Engels, a ONE activist who recently got Santa Monica the title of “ONE City”. Being a student himself, he was a relatable voice for the predominantly youthful crowd. Roger Thurow brought us into the world of sustainable development with an intimate look at  “The Last Hunger Season”  and kicked off the ” Choose Your Own Adventure” aspect of the day. The adventures included information sessions on diplomacy through digital media, discussion with skeptics and faith and ended with a phone-a-thon of 2,000 calls in less than 30 minutes.

Monday:

Day 2 began on an impressive note, with Chair of Center for American Progress John Podesta speaking on the Millennium Development Goals and the 2015 agenda. His call to action was obvious, ending poverty in a manner that is both environmentally and socially sustainable. He brought the message home by reminding ONE members that they are the light that shines through the darkness with billions of people counting on them.

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John Podesta tackling the tough questions on MDGs. Photo Credit: Meghra

After the first (much-needed) coffee break of the day, ONE members returned for a panel discussion focused on global health, hunger and nutrition with Global Policy Director Ben Leo. The panel that followed included Chief Creative and Communications Officer at (RED) Sheila Roche, ONE’s Global Health Policy Director Erin Hohlfelder and President of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Deb Derrick and touched on the effectiveness of global aid (8.7 million lives saved and care for 6.3 million AIDS orphans). Sheila intimated the new association with (RED) and dance music, with the Dance (RED) Save Lives album with Tiesto topping the 2012 charts.

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The panel discussion. Photo Credit: one.org

The ONE members were ready to dance during their break and came into the next discussion with high energy and a renewed sense of commitment. We needed that level of participant energy to discuss the dearth of energy worldwide with Jay Heimbach, ONE’s Director of US Government Relations and Edith Jibunoh, ONE’s Director of Iultilateral institutions. With seven in ten people living in sub-Saharan Africa without access to electricity, ONE members faced the facts of energy poverty.

Lunch break brought no respite from inspiring speakers, with ONE Fellow Roger Thurow informing the masses about agriculture and development and how to empower the farmer.

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Roger Thurow, on empowering the farmer. Photo Credit: Tzviatko Chiderov

Following lunch, in deference to the previous night’s Academy Awards, the lifetime achievement award was given to Dr. Mark Dybul, former director of PEPFAR and current Global Fund director. He received the award to Academy music, pausing to present an informative and powerful discussion on our “moment in history to control three plagues and do it in a way that is breathtaking and historic”. His focus is changing the fabric of the human community into one that is supportive and proactive.

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Dr. Mark Dybul, empowering the audience with his message. Photo Credit: Maegan Ramirez

Tom Hart broke down a hugely complicated matter (the budget) into a simple one, noting that regardless of the difficulty of the jargon, the message is clear. We are fighting for 0.6% and those funds affect millions of lives. We need to fight for it. Jay Heimbach and Jen Anderson deepened the understanding of the message and how to advocate effectively on the hill, suggesting that “punching senators” isn’t the best way to push a campaign but facts and personal connection are.

After a hysterical presentation by Christopher Kush, Soapbox presenter, laden with Rihanna references, members broke up into their state constituent groups and created a plan for the day, outlining who would speak on what and identifying their representative’s previous support for foreign assistance. For further preparation, members were escorted into a live debate between Dee Dee Myers and Matt Schlapp, moderated by Ginny Wolfe. Both sides discussed their perspective on foreign assistance and more, highlighted their party’s current views and actions for or against it. Opening up the floor to questions, they received high praise for their discussion, lauded for making it a peaceable and informative one, with some comedic relief to boot.

Tuesday: Lobby Day

Day 3 was the big day, with meetings on the hill beginning at 9am and spanning until the closing speakers at 5pm. Over 30 states were represented by our members and groups of ONE members, separated by state but unified by cause, were spotted traversing all over both the senate and house sides of the hill. A Lobby Day debrief commenced at five and members were fortunate enough to receive visits from two senators, Chris Coons and John Isakson. Both spoke with tremendous heart and passion on the need for and power of foreign assistance. Chris Coons gave ONE a special mention when he said, “ONE was the single most successful group at lobbying me during my 2010 campaign”.

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ONE members raising their voices-and braving the rain. Photo credit: Daniel Chick

Feeling completely affirmed in the mission of representing the world’s poorest people, ONE members convened for the farewell dinner and had the pleasure of listening to Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Acting Director of the Peace Corps, speak on the personal connection established with foreign assistance. In her years with Peace Corps, she has lived in 50 different countries, a statistic that floored the audience in her introduction. Her speech on compassion and human connection ended the conference with a depth deserving of the accomplishment achieved by the ONE members.

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The group photo for ONE Members who weren’t still in meetings! Photo Credit: one.org

Tom Hart’s final call to action was fitting: “Take a day of rest tomorrow and on Thursday, redouble your effort”.

Read what our members had to say on Twitter: