Byron Williams / byronspeaks.com – 2005-07-20 00:22:15
(July 11, 2005) — If one lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is quite possible to periodically spot a car displaying a weather-beaten bumper sticker that reads: “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me.”
That bumper sticker was in response to the national attention, mostly negative, that Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, received for standing alone to cast the only “no” vote as the House of Representatives gave President Bush authority for the war in Iraq.
Four years later, the five-term representative is no longer standing alone. In fact, she has 999 women standing with her.
Last week, Lee was one of 1,000 outstanding women from more than 150 countries who were nominated jointly for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lee was nominated by the international organization 1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize, an effort “to publicize the wealth of strategies, procedures for conflict resolution and methods of negotiation that women all over the world develop in order to deal with the various socio-political issues and problems in their respective regions.”
Lee said, “It’s an honor to be included with all of these women who have done so much to promote peace on our planet.”
Lee was nominated for being the only member of Congress to vote against the war; for her tireless efforts and leadership in promoting policies that foster international peace, security and human rights; for promoting legislation to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS; and for her long-standing advocacy for the most vulnerable, especially women and children.
Lee humbly believes that she is merely carrying out the vision of the district she represents.
Committed to an Agenda of
Peace and Justice
“The people in my district are very committed to an agenda of peace and justice,” Lee said. “They provide me with the support and the assistance — and oftentimes they provide me with the encouragement to continue to fight.”
Lee also cites her nomination as a testimony to her staff, family, and the values-driven agenda she has been committed to since replacing her mentor, Rep. Ron Dellums, who retired in 1998.
From her tenure in the state Legislature to her time on Capitol Hill, Lee has been a devoted warrior against the global AIDS pandemic. She sees her work on AIDS locally and internationally as inextricably linked.
“If it’s a global AIDS pandemic, we must know that we are part of the global family,” she said.
From working on a needle exchange program while in the state Legislature to her work in the House to declare a “State of Emergency” in Alameda County as a result of the impact of AIDS within the African-American community, Lee has indeed been an advocate for the voiceless.
In addition to the obvious moral and humanitarian aspects of the HIV/AIDS issue, Lee also sees her international work on AIDS as part of our national security.
Facing the AIDS Pandemic
The global AIDS pandemic has the potential to destabilize certain regions of the world. AIDS is a disease rooted in poverty and hopelessness, making such areas spawning grounds for al-Qaida recruitment.
The ability to receive medication, prevention information and much-needed resources is directly connected to one’s economic status. The failure to receive those services creates systemic hopelessness, thus threatening America’s national security.
Ironically, one of the primary reasons for Lee’s nomination is somewhat moot.
Though acknowledged for casting the sole vote in the House against the war on terror, it would seem that there, too, Lee is no longer alone.
In addition to the members of the House and Senate who may be experiencing buyer’s remorse for their votes, the country in general is moving toward the position that Lee has steadfastly maintained.
Having endured the diatribes of talk radio that would have made calling her “unpatriotic” a compliment, Lee has demonstrated through courage that patriotism and the majority opinion can be mutually exclusive.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Barbara Lee is someone I know personally. I take particular pride in her being so richly honored.
I can say without reservation that the stands she has taken were not about awards or acknowledgment. But her Nobel Peace Prize nomination does suggest that the bumper sticker be amended to read: “Barbara Lee Speaks for Us!” Byron Williams writes a weekly political/social commentary at Byronspeaks.com. Byron serves as pastor of the Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, California.
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