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Letters to Obama


-by SURGE Vice President

In my previous post I mentioned delivering to a White House staffer the letters from American youth from the Midwest, and letters and pictures from Kenyan schoolchildren from the Barack Obama Primary School in the President’s paternal grandmother’s hometown in Kenya. The White House has made a blog post and video on us worth checking out – though sadly they cut off the end of the clip where I sent the President the message that the youth movement wants results, not just effort, and that our votes depend on him acting…

Below is the cover letter that a group of Kenyan and American youth, myself included, wrote and gave to the staffer for delivery to Obama – it’s reached the White House, though no confirmation if it will get to him.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Copenhagen, Denmark

Dear President Obama,

This afternoon, young people from the United States and Kenya gathered to share what a strong climate treaty means to our lives. Two stories from our conversation echo the several hundred we have collected for you, asking for U.S. leadership to protect our planet. Kenya is your ancestral land and the United States is your home. We represent your past and present, and your actions shape our future.

Papa Julius is a young environmentalist from Kisumu, Kenya: “My friend Laiboni is a Maasai, I met while holding a community theatre workshop on climate change. Last year he owned 450 head of cattle. But when the floods came, 200 of his cattle were washed away. We are sure they drowned. Immediately after, the rain disappeared. Then the sun came and it was so hot that things dried up and there was no grass for the animals. Laiboni started moving towards the coast, but unfortunately there was no grass there. Beginning in March this year, Laiboni was selling his cattle at about four dollars per head because they were in such poor health. Currently Laiboni doesn’t run any animals at all.”

Laiboni’s story is being repeated across Africa. Climate change is already destroying livelihoods and lives; bold action now can bring jobs, security, and prosperity.

Danielle Ostafinski is a climate activist from Berkley, Michigan: “My father is a union electrician and has been for the past 30 years. There have been fluctuations in the job market, but never as bad as this. He hasn’t worked for two years. He spends his time trying to find other sorts of jobs to get by. There have been times when we’ve been close to losing our health care, and house, and it’s been hard for him because my brothers and I are away. My mom died a while ago, so it’s only him. He wants a new job.  He wants a green job, and he wants to keep working for his family. He’s always been a supporter of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Passing domestic legislation would stimulate the Michigan economy, give him a job again, and give me hope.”

These stories show the costs of inaction for young and future generations. We canvassed our neighborhoods in all weather for you, we voted for you and brought our parents to the polls, we watched on solar-powered TVs as you were elected, and we celebrated from Washington to Nairobi with all our hearts when you were inaugurated. We ask that you use all your power to forge a strong and just treaty in Copenhagen, get the world on track to the 350ppm of CO2 that science demands, and ensure the survival of all. Use this power well, for the sake of the youth who wrote these letters, and for your own Sasha and Malia.

Please remember the voices of youth. We will inherit the world, and we are counting on you.

With hope,

The US and Kenyan Youth Delegations

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