I am a 19-year-old political affairs intern with the Borgen Project, a nongovernmental organization that works to eliminate poverty and increase quality worldwide.

One of my assignments was to mobilize people I know in support of this cause. One of the people I asked to mobilize lives in Fairmount emailed his representative, Congressman Tom Graves, about the Keeping Girls in School Act of 2019. Frankly, I was shocked by his response.

First, I was shocked because he sent my boyfriend a nice, official letter, personally signed. I have emailed representatives before and I typically just end up on an email list, so this was a nice surprise. The content of the letter, however, was far less pleasing.

Congressman Graves began by addressing the bill’s contents, stating that it “brings attention to the systemic barriers preventing girls from accessing secondary education, such as child marriage and religious or ethnic discrimination.” He added “I am alarmed by the number of obstacles girls and women face across the globe. As a father of two daughters, it is of particular importance to me that all children have every opportunity available to safely attend school and succeed.”

At this, I thought he seemed passionate about the cause, so that was a relief. He informed us that this bill had been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which Congressman Graves is not a member.

Here’s the issue: most bills die in committee. It’s a fact of life. Remember SNL, “I’m just a bill?” I am sure Congressman Graves knows that, but he wrote “should this bill come before me ... I will be certain to keep your thoughts in mind.”

Congressman Graves, I agree that you should be passionate about the issues that affect women, considering you have two daughters, and barriers for women in other countries affect us here in the U.S. because women that could have been changing the world for the better are restricted from doing so. If not already, your daughters will face sexism one day, and perhaps they will ask you to bring it up in the House.

But if you were passionate, your attitude would not be so passive as to address the bill “should it come before” you. You would be advocating for the Keeping Girls in School Act in the media, talking to the Congresspeople you know in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and making your constituents feel more certain global sexism really is an issue for you.

Readers, please do not accept responses like this from your leaders. We cannot accept neutrality, only passion, if we ever want change.

Cadence Kupfner

Cedar Bluff, Ala.

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