Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The debate

So, many of you are probably wondering if my video question was used in Monday night’s CNN/YouTube Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate. The short answer is no, it wasn’t. However, much to my delight, the issue of Darfur was addressed by using equally impressive and emotional video questions from aid workers in Chad. The real victory is that for five minutes, the “entire” world watched US presidential candidates react to the issue of Darfur. This is quite impressive – the crisis facing the African villages where I grew up is now valued enough to take time in a nationally televised debate to address it.

Here is a brief rundown of what I observed during some of their answers:
Gov. Richardson – A strong, steady advocate who would prefer to use the UN to achieve peace in Darfur. He advocated a permanent UN troop presence, with soldiers coming from Muslim countries. He sees “doing right in Darfur” as a way of restoring America’s leadership in the world.

Sen. Biden – Very outspoken against the genocide and showed true emotion while passionately addressing the crowd. He obviously has little patience for diplomacy and is an advocate of swift action (what action was not clear). “These children will be dead by the time diplomacy takes it course” was one of his quotes.

Sen. Clinton – Wants to “act and not talk.” Not as passionate as the others, but proved she has given the issue real thought by throwing out many possible actions, including a no-fly zone led by NATO and supported by the US, targeted divestment, increased sanctions and more. She said US ground troops were not needed but did advocate using US logistical support for the AU/UN mission.

Whirlwind Week

When I posted my CNN/YouTube debate question two weeks ago, I had no idea what it would spark. The video question caught the attention of the YouTube.com Political Editor and before I could hardly blink, I was asked to be interviewed live on CNN.

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of going on national primetime TV and sharing my passion for saving my friends in Darfur. The experience was both surreal (sitting in a cold room speaking to the voice in my ear) and exciting (spreading an important message, even if for just a few seconds).

The response from that interview has been impressive. Many people were genuinely moved and encouraged by the interview and reached out to me to let me know. I have had a nurse tell me she has found her life’s calling after seeing me, a missionary kid share deep secrets, a newspaper contact me about writing a feature piece and a theatre director in London call for an interview. I also did an interview with the local 24-hour news channel, News 14 Carolina. This aired on Friday and over the weekend as part of their Presidential Debate coverage.

Granted, it is nice to receive the many encouraging emails and phone calls – but what means more to me is the fact that Darfur was placed on the national and local agenda for at least one week and prompted genuine, strong reactions from people as they discovered the truth.