Thursday, July 15, 2010
The DC trip was an experience indeed. After sneaking in some important sightseeing at the Air and Space and the National Zoo, it was a jam-packed three days of meeting alternative energy allies. Our intention was to express our concern over the environment and to show our support for the new alternative energy bill that is making its way through the Senate.
Fortunately Newsday followed us with camera and reporter so we can begin to process exactly what happened. Here's a bit of a humble recap.
We had the great fortune to meet with Congressman Waxman, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. His long-standing positions on sustainable energy lead him to write legistation pushing the country forward in becoming a leader in manufacturing alternative energy systems, and not in just consuming energy. He sat with Olivia and us as she presented him with a drawing and described her passion for saving the planet.
First thing the next day, we had a tour of the East Wing, followed by a meeting with Carol Browner, who serves as director of President Obama's Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, as well as heading the task force overseeing the spill. She shared Olivia's love of birds, even serving on Audubon's Board of Directors. She was an impressive person who provided great insights into both the spill and moving the country off oil. From there we met Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, a gentle man, who sat with us in his office and explained his feelings about conservation. Throughout his career, Secretary Salazar has started several programs for kids working with the environment, so he was particularly impressed with Olivia's work and her desire to preserve bird habitiat.
One of our favorite meetings was with Congressman Engel from NY. Although we aren't technically in his district, his position on the Energy Committee was on we wanted to support. Engel gave us an incredible inside look at the negotiations in trying to pass alternative energy measures, as well as his recent participation in the oli spill hearings as he pushed for answers as only a New Yorker can.
Afterwards, we had a chance to meet with both NY Senators. Once Olivia presented Senator Gillibrand with a drawing of an American Kestrel, they spoke about Olivia's artwork and her environmental advocacy. We then met with Senator Schumer, whose kind and gentle conversation with Olivia and Jackson suggested a grandfather more than statesman. I can tell you that Schumer clearly understood our mission as a family to protect the environment.
I thought nothing could top that list of meetings, but I was wrong. Yesterday on our way to meet with Congressman Steve Israel, our representative in the House, we ran into him in the hallway as he dashed off to cast his vote in the House. He invited us to join him, even taking the kids to meet fellow leaders who were casting votes themselves. Olivia and Jackson were able to shake hands with Speaker Nancy Pelosi who knew of Olivia's project and praised her for her efforts. As we posed for pics on the steps of the Capitol with Congressman Israel, Congressman Murphy of PA stopped to shake Olivia's hand, enthusing that he had just seen her on MSNBC. Back in Congressman Israel's office, we spoke about alternative energy initiatives on both the local and national levels, their connection to national security, and creative ways to move our country forward on this issue.
As we drove to the airport on our way home to Long Island, Jackson rested his head on the seat and said, "This trip is the most important trip of my life." Our entire family agreed.