May 14, 2003
Final Internship Report
Internship to Raise Awareness about the effects of the US International Free Trade Agreements on our Health, Safety, and Environment
Time has passed quite rapidly this second half of the semester. When I look back on the last month and a half since spring break, I am happy with the progress I have made. Although the circumstances didn't allow for the three of us -- Amanda, Rachel and myself -- to follow through with the end of our internship as we had planned, I am very pleased with the place we are at. For a while I thought we had come up short of what was possible given our own circumstances - as was apparent in my mid-semester report -- but recently I have realized that we are now poised to use our knowledge and our experience to be more effective in the future, in the critical months of September and October. And like you reminded me on my mid-semester report, the point of the internship is not necessary to make a big impact but rather to develop our skills and knowledge so that we will be capable of making a greater impact in the future.
What we accomplished on the Whitman campus is a good start. I felt especially encouraged when we presented at the Global House late last month. The members of the house and other students in attendance were very receptive, very interested and, to some degree, shocked. This shock is the initial reaction I expected out of most of the groups we presented to and did not always receive. When we did succeed in shocking people they tended to be more drawn to the cause. This is not to say we used shock tactics; the information alone is quite surprising and shocking in its own right.
Another encouraging signs is the progress that is occurring at the national level. While we worked on our grass roots campaign, there were protests around the world and a noticeable change in political attitudes. Two of the candidates in teh democratic primary oppose NAFTA -- style agreements: Howard Dean wants to greatly amend NAFTA and is against FTAA; Kuncinich wants to pull out of NAFTA and the WTO. Furthermore, the US has decided to challenge the EU's moratorium on genetically modified foods in a WTO courtroom. Popular opinion is strongly in favor of the moratorium and there is a good chance the EU will battle the WTO with full force. However, there were also great losses such as the Singapore and Chile deals.
On the whole, I feel that the video showing of Trading Democracy and the numerous presentations we did were successful in getting the word out about our campaign, even if the vast majority of students are not aware of our campaign message. Hopefully, our end of the year wrap up -- most likely, a presentation to the Outhouse and a letter signing table in Reid -- will reach out to a couple more students. Also, even though it threw off some of our own plans, it is great that Isaac Groudy and Laura Davis were able to pass a fair trade coffee resolution through the ASWC senate; by next year, all coffee on the Whitman campus will be Fair Trade coffee.
However, the skills I learned seem to be as important as the impact we had on the Whitman campus. From this internship I greatly developed my ability to research laws and navigate government databases; my understanding of the receptivity of students and community members improved -- knowing what would work and what wouldn't; and my ability to present complicated information to large and small groups was enhanced significantly. Hopefully, these skills will be useful when working for Fair Trade in the future and any other future activist campaigns I may become involved in.
Looking to the future, there is a lot that needs to be done. I would like to present an ASWC resolution against the FTAA in the fall, before the summit meetings begins in Miami. There is the possibility of getting Whitman students on a bus that will be heading to Miami for the summit. And there will also be a growing need to educate people about the FTAA's potential impact on the Walla Walla community. What was accomplished and learned this semester was a great start; we provided a foundation for future fair trade activism on the Whitman campus.