Monday, June 27, 2011

UNA-USA Annual Meeting & Lobbying Capitol Hill for Women's Issues


[Read the program for the 2011 Annual Meeting, The United Nations...In Everyone's Interest]

FRIDAY 6/10: Elizabeth (UNA-SF Vice President) and I (UNA-SF Secretary) BART separately to SFO. Flight was scheduled to fly out at 11:25p. It was delayed an hour and 15 min. Once we boarded they had to check something on the wing. We didn't take off until at least 1a.

SATURDAY 6/11: To save money we flew into BMI instead of Reagan National. Originally we would have arrived at 7:30a but with the delays it was 9a (which seemed like 6a). We bused to the Metro. When we went to buy our tickets, we misprinted one. Luckily there was a nice attendant who divided the $10 ticket into two $5 ones and sold them, although it took awhile. Finally we both had the $9 passes we originally wanted.

When we got to the Radisson Hotel (near the Reagan National Airport), we found out it had been struck by lightening and the A/C was out. They moved us to another hotel. We stood for a long time at the counter working out that the Radisson sent us over and promised us the same rate for a comparable room. A room was not ready so we left our luggage and went sightseeing with our eyes half closed, but we were glad to have the time since we would be in the conference for the next three days before we had to return home Tuesday evening 6/14.

It was super hot (like 90 but thunderstorms were predicted). On our way to the Holocaust Museum, we saw a little kid (who looked like a boy but I think it was a girl) who had a place-mat with all the First Ladies on it. Elizabeth took a picture of the kid. Between not knowing the sex of the child (which I loved) and how cute the kid was...I cried. It was a great slice of Americana with which to begin the trip. Then we made it to the Holocaust Museum. It went on endlessly and was phenomenal, but I got to a point where it was too much and had to leave. When I exited it started sprinkling but luckily I carry a mini-umbrella in my bag.

We decided to check out the National Museum of American History. It was okay but we weren't as impressed. For one, the First Ladies exhibit was all about their dresses? C'mon.

After exiting that museum, we were worried about walking across the grass, away from the foot-trafficked gravel areas. But we did it anyway. As we were making our way over, there was a group of men, and one appeared to be accosting us but we were in for a great surprise. The guy says, very slowly, that he and the group are taking turns giving speeches and they'd love for us to listen. There were eight men, all attractive and "normal" looking, but with speech impediments, from different parts of the U.S. One of their strategies was to say the first letter of a word, then say the word. Like m-monument. They were all so excited to be working together to overcome their challenge and tell us about it. We were so touched by meeting them that as we parted we decided to call them back for a photo. (Coming soon)

Finally, we were off to eat dinner. Instead of going to the hotel, we went directly to this restaurant row we noticed when we exited the hotel earlier in the day. We met Sue Zipp. Sue was recently President for UNA-SF but now Treasurer since she's having to travel bi-coastily to care for her aging mother. We had a beer and ate Thai food while sitting outside. Afterward, we went back to our hotel and straight to bed.

SUNDAY 6/12: Planning for Elizabeth to meet us momentarily, Sue and I walked across the street from our hotel to The Hilton. We were hoping to catch the tail end of the complimentary continental breakfast. Instead, we were unpleasantly surprised to discover that the UNA-USA Annual Meeting was at a different Hilton, four miles away. So we walked back to our hotel, got Elizabeth, and arranged for transportation to the correct hotel but it wasn't easy. Fortunately, we liked our driver, Charlie. When we got to the conference, we were not the only ones registering late. We received black bags with a UNA-USA logo and a stack of valuable documents plus a flash drive with the same documents for our computer. I was impressed that the room was full of nearly 200 people with microphones on either side of the room at which audience members would get in line to speak. Luckily, there was still room at one of the round tables for all three of us. And, decent coffee was available all day, including those cute mini Coffeemate creamers in Irish Cream or my favorite Hazelnut.

The day began with the Alma Morrison, Chair of the Council of Chapters and Regions (CCR), reviewing the annual meeting. Then Patrick Madden, Executive Director of UNA-USA gave an address with Q&A after a screening of a film called Global Classrooms. The afternoon covered the Young Professionals (ages 21-40, soon dropping the "for International Cooperation"), Girl Up (a UN Foundation campaign), and discussion of general business such as structure, membership, and procedures. To end the day we had a Chapter Charter Signing Ceremony with photos taken, then regional breakout sessions.

After today's conference the Young Professionals (and anyone wanting to join them) met for Happy Hour at the Rock Bottom Brewery. Since I was part of YPIC when I first joined UNA-SF as a board member in spring 2009, I joined. Shortly after we got there, the electricity on the entire block went out. I opened the door to the back patio and left it open. Then one of the waitstaff closed it. I went to one of the waitstaff and asked them why the door was closed and was told that those dining were complaining about the heat. I argued that at least with the door open there is cross ventilation, and so I reopened the door and it stayed open. We were still able to order cold beer although the waitstaff had to use their cell phone calculators to figure out our tab. Some people went back to the conference to see a film called Climate Refugees. We were too distracted by the power outage. Later, we went to a restaurant called The Front Page for dinner, sitting outside with a few of the YPs. Suddenly it was 10:30 and we all scurried to our hotels to rest for the next full day.

MONDAY 6/13: We tried to be on time today but with being 4 miles from the conference, we had coffee for breakfast again once we arrived. Tim Wirth, President of UN Foundation, had a Q&A. Then Concurrent Policy & Program Sessions were offered; we had to choose one of two in each time block. At 10am was either Global Health OR Securing Peace. At 11am was either Empowering Women OR Energy. I chose Global Health and Empowering Women. During Empowering Women, the microphones went out. (Is there a pattern here?) Instead of just walking to the microphone and getting in line, audience members were raising their hands to ask questions. I decided to be aggressive. So I just jumped up before anyone else did, apologized for doing so, and announced my name, chapter, and that UNA-SF has a Women's Committee. Then I said that if any UNA chapters do not have such a committee that I suggest they create one. At that point I posed a question to Joanne Sandler, Deputy Director of UN Women. I simply asked her if UNA-SF's Women's Committee could have a relationship with UN Women. She said yes. I added if the relationship could be on-going. She said yes. Then I asked how to reach her and she motioned for me to type her an email. During the break she came up to me in the restroom and gave me her card. So far I have emailed her twice but not heard back. I aiming to telephone her before the first official UNA-SF WC meeting on 7/6.

At 1:30pm, we chose one of four: Social Media, Model UN, Local Partnerships, and Raising Money in This Economy. I chose the Social Media session, since I am the Administrator for our UNA-SF Facebook page. I spoke at the mic to say that concerned chapters should just find a member who is very active with social media and ask if that member is willing to take over in this regard. I have a few notes which I will post later.

Then Kathy Calvin, CEO of UN Foundation, had a Q&A. Peter Yeo, Vice President of Public Policy & Executive Director of the Better World Campaign, and Don Kraus, Citizens for Global Solutions, spoke about UN Funding, Human Rights, International
Treaties and MDGs. Finally we had a Training Session regarding Meeting Strategies &
Briefing for the Day on the Hill (Tue 6/14) with Mike Beard, Director of Better World Campaign, Jordie Hannum also from the Better World Campaign, and Rita Maran from the East Bay Chapter.

From 6:30 to 8:00 we had complimentary drinks and appetizers at the Caribbean Breeze Restaurant across from the hotel where the conference was held. It was so nice to see everyone let their hair down. Some were wanting to go later into the night, but when Sue said she was leaving, I told her I'd leave with her. A couple offered to give us a ride. We followed them to the garage, but they weren't sure of where they parked. The elevator contributed to the confusion because it went underground so the numbering of the floors throw's one off. I told them they were probably parked on


TUESDAY 6/14: full day of lobbying on Capitol Hill

WEDNESDAY 6/15: Breakfast meeting with Senator Feinstein!

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