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Laren Poole


Coburn Said Yes: The Oklahoma City Holdout

Posted: 03/12/10 03:51 PM ET

On Tuesday afternoon, a 262-hour demonstration in front of Senator Tom Coburn's office in Oklahoma City officially ended. It ended because Senator Tom Coburn agreed to release his hold on the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.

Together with Resolve Uganda, we at Invisible Children have been advocating for the passage of this bill that will require President Obama to make a plan for apprehending rebel leader Joseph Kony and appropriate 40 million dollars from the State Department's existing budget to the rehabilitation of war-torn Northern Uganda. With 217 co-sponsors in the Senate and the House, this bill is widely supported. Up until Tuesday, only one man stood in the way.

oklahoma city holdout

Resolve Uganda spearheaded this Oklahoma Holdout, and for 11 days straight a group that fluctuated from 20-75 people slept outside in the Oklahoma winter to encourage Senator Coburn to take another look at the bill and ultimately release his hold.

People from all over the United States drove or flew to Oklahoma City to be a part of the demonstration. Through freezing nights and rainy days, supporters of the bill stuck it out. Those who couldn't be there in person donated money for food and sleeping bags. Other long distance supporters called Senator Coburn's office once a day expressing solidarity with the people sitting outside of his office.

coburn say yes

I am proud of everyone who showed up from around the country in support of this bill. I have heard numerous reports of how kind and respectful the demonstrators were. Instead of shouting, jumping, and bullying people into hearing their message, the demonstrators stood respectfully with their signs and greeted people on their way to work. We believe that self-described Dr. No responded (eventually) to our request for a meeting because we approached him purposefully but respectfully. And not simply with bleeding heart idealism, but with intelligent compromise and policy understanding. I don't think that the citizens of Oklahoma City will forget us anytime soon.

In the end, all 262 hours proved worth it. On Tuesday afternoon, Resolve Uganda and Senator Coburn agreed on a compromise. Now that Senator Coburn has released his hold on the bill, and yesterday evening the bill passed the Senate. Just hours after the hold was lifted. It will now go to the House where it already has wide support.

Invisible Children

What this proves to us is the tangibility of idealism. Young people are sensitive to the moral fabric of civic engagement, and willing to sacrifice comfort in a way forgotten by the establishment. This demonstration proved that this commitment produces actual results. From supporting the drafting of an unprecedented humanitarian bill to seeing it through to passing the senate, this adventure confirms the desires of a youth movement: to be seen as an effective voice of change. Next stop, congress. And then, the White House. Once the bill is in effect, it is up to us to make sure Obama does what he has been called to do: apprehend one of the world's worst war criminals.

And to our critics, this is not the United States meddling where it has no business. This is not another Iraq. As the only remaining super power, I believe we have a moral duty to provide assistance to the most marginalized and invisible of vulnerable people groups, and only when simple assistance is proven to produce immediate results. The child soldiers in Joseph Kony's rebel army are the clearest example of this.

It is moving to see the juggernaut of Washington respond to us. It is worthy of hope.

All photos by Rachel Renee