The Strongest Generation

02/12/2012 04:33 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2012

Janessa Goldbeck is a woman on a bicycle -- and a mission to ride 4,200 miles for her country. But she needs your help.

Janessa's not a professional cyclist. But she does love her country. Last week, Janessa signed her contract to go to Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in June. Between now and then, Janessa is trying to protect her country in a different way: by bicycling across the country to talk to Americans about how development keeps us safe and makes America great.

Starting this morning in San Diego, 26-year-old Janessa is beginning the Cycle For Security bicycle tour. In the next few months, she'll bicycle through places like Midland, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, into the high desert and over the Appalachian Mountains.

It's an important message that Janessa's working to spread. Not everyone realizes that international development (sometimes called "foreign aid") is important to keeping America safe -- but it's not exactly a new concept. Janessa's grandfather was a World War II veteran, and it was his generation that taught us about keeping America strong. After the Greatest Generation won World War II, they realized that the only way to truly stamp out fascism -- and make sure that communism couldn't sweep through Europe -- was to rebuild the countries we had defeated. And it worked. Today, those nations we went to war with are now strong economic partners, and reliable allies.

Development did more than just stabilize Europe, though. In the decades that followed, America helped beat back smallpox and polio. By taking these diseases on abroad, we eliminated these pandemics, so they don't pose a threat to us today.

And after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was international development that dismantled nuclear programs in former Soviet states. Today, anti-American extremists can't get their hands on nuclear weapons because, for decades, international development has made sure there aren't any out there for them to get.

The problem is, not everyone in Congress realizes how important our international development efforts are.International development is around 1 percent of our budget, and development actually saves American lives and American dollars by keeping us out of conflicts. But some are still irresponsibly eying these programs for cuts.

That's why the Cycle For Security Tour is so important. All along the way, Janessa will be speaking to students, elected leaders and other members of local communities about how important international development is to America's security, working to get them to contact their members of Congress about this important issue. Janessa and the people she meets along her tour will be able to send the message that Congress needs to protect these vital development programs.

She needs your help -- but you don't have to travel 4,200 miles to pitch in. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're closer than 4,200 miles from your computer. Sign up to join the campaign for international development at Or, if you're reading this article on your phone, call (202) 505-0212 and leave a message for your Member of Congress about the importance of development.

We need people standing up for international development everywhere -- in Portland and Plymouth, Detroit and Des Moines, Minneapolis to Miami -- to take small steps to make the case that international development keeps us safe, makes us strong, and needs to stay. Tell your members of Congress: if they're serious about keeping America safe, they'll fully fund international development.