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Class goes to Washington to put knowledge on public policy into action

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Three important topics were at the heart of the Public Policy for Global Issues interterm class--terrorism, economic globalization, and the AIDS crisis. We studied intensely, covering one topic each week, before flying out to Washington, D.C., where we pitted our new knowledge on what it takes to make policies against the Washington bigwigs.

In addition to the class work during the first three weeks of interterm, every Friday was reserved for a cross-cultural field trip that pertained to each of our topics. While we were studying terrorism, we visited Interfaith Ministries and a mosque, in Wichita, to learn more about Islam and understand the culture. During the week on economic globalization, we visited the home of one of Bethel’s cafeteria workers, Maya, to eat a delicious Mexican meal and talk about both her and co-worker Marisol’s experience with immigrating to the United States. Our third week’s topic, AIDS, brought our class together with Bethel students from Cameroon, Franklin and Collins Ekue and Yenikah Fon, to eat a lunch of plantains and spinach and talk about how their communities in Africa view the AIDS epidemic.

After three-quarters of interterm was complete, we had crammed in enough information on each topic to ask knowledgeable questions and to participate in intelligent discussions with staff from various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and think tanks and even with our Kansas senators and representative.

A visit to Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington Office, where we discussed biblically rooted alternatives to current U.S. security policies regarding terrorism, marked the beginning of our excursion. A visit to the Muslim Public Affairs Council followed shortly after. There, National Director Ahmed Younis talked about the importance of including more Muslim voices in policy making on terrorism. Perhaps the highlight for most people on the trip for that day was the visit to the Pentagon--in addition to the first-hand accounts of Iraq from an American soldier, we received a tour of the facility and the September 11 memorial.

As the week progressed, we continued to visit a variety of organizations and people. The topic of global HIV/AIDS sent us to the South Africa Embassy, the Global AIDS Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals. Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs in the NAE, led us in an especially interesting meeting. He explained how evangelicals are using Scripture in new ways to speak out in the importance of providing global assistance to those in need, especially those afflicted with AIDS.

Our final topic, economic globalization and international institutions, took us to OXFAM America (a fair trade organization), the International Monetary Fund and the Mexico Embassy, where we discussed different aspects of trade policies and how they affect the rest of the world.

After three intense days of tours and discussions, the nine of us combined resources, facts, and opinions into three separate policy proposals for each of our Kansas senators and representative. One group proposed a terrorism policy to the aides of Sen. Pat Roberts; another group presented a policy to Sen. Sam Brownback’s aides concerning globalization; and, the last group discussed with Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s aide a policy direction aimed to increase the prevention and care of AIDS. Because the senators and Tiahrt were all very busy, we could not even meet with any of them for a photo.

Besides the visits and tours, our class spent every waking minute traversing the city and taking in its attractions. Some of these things include riding the largest escalator in the Western Hemisphere, visiting the memorials along the Mall, looking at world-famous art in the National Art Gallery, eating jumbo slices of pizza, touring the Holocaust Museum, and walking past Donald Rumsfeld during a tour of the Capitol.

Overall, the class was valuable to each member of the group in showing what it takes to make policies concerning hot issues around the world. Looking at all aspects of each issue and thinking critically will definitely aid us in the future as we continue to be politically active.

Members of the Global Public Policy class, taught by Julie Hart, associate professor of sociology and peace studies, were Jenna Boettger, freshman from Hesston; Josh Chittum, freshman from Wichita; Wes Haines, junior from Haven; Annam Hasan, senior from Halstead; Omar Hasan, freshman from Halstead; Rebecca Mueller, senior from Halstead; Jeremy Petersen, freshman from Sedgwick; Laura Schlabach, freshman from Wichita; and Kristin Watson-Drennen, junior from Lyons.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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