At the annual national conference of CARE -- an international philanthropic organization that had its origins as an American charity that delivered food to the needy in post-war Europe -- took place in Washington DC on May 22-24 and featured speakers who included Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Pierce Bush. Topics of discussion included global poverty and hunger, as well as improving the lives of women and children. On its website, the organization said that its 15th national conference was bringing together advocates, “corporate responsibility professionals, philanthropists, humanitarians and international development experts for three days of inspiration, learning, connection and advocacy, concluding with face-to-face congressional meetings on Capitol Hill.”

Moreover, the philanthropy openly criticized President Trump’s proposed budget and called on conferees to meet their congressional representatives “face-to-face” to express that proposed cuts to foreign aid by the US “could be deadly” and “threaten the lives of more than 20 million people.”

In a session on “Global Challenges facing Women and Girls,” Barbara Pierce Bush -- daughter of George W. Bush and co-founder of Global Health Corps -- praised the more than 700 alumni of her philanthropy for their various forms of activism in the field of “social justice.”

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was also a featured speaker at the event. Al-Khatahtbeh was born in New Jersey. However, she accompanied her parents as a child to Jordan, their native country, in order to escape “Islamophobia.” She founded MuslimGirl.com at the age of 17, which has become a successful online publishing site. In 2016, she partnered with Teen Vogue for a web series directed at Muslims. In her initial remarks, Al-Khatahtbeh said that as a high school student she felt that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that she felt “extreme alienation from all the Islamophobia that was unfolding around me, especially when it comes to the media…”

She said that there was a focus on Muslims and Muslim women but that it was “never women who looked like me that were doing the talking, it was never Muslim women who were included in the conversation." Saying that during the "War on Terror" she frequently watched C-SPAN, Al-Khatahtbeh said she was frustrated that "It was always white, non-Muslim people who speak to my experience or how this was impacting me that were the ones doing the talking." She also described her pleasure when she saw Michelle Obama was addressing the 2008 Democratic National Convention as a”woman of color” who could have an impact on girls like herself and how she felt about herself.

When the moderator asked Al-Khatahtbeh for a few words of advice for the audience, she spoke to the need for those who have been silenced, especially, women to regain their voice. Also on the panel was Chelsea Clinton, who is an executive the the Bill and Hillary Clinton Foundation. When she was also asked to give advice to the assembly of activists, Clinton expressed pride that her organization has helped to provide anti-retroviral drugs to 12 million people, including children.

She added, “We also have to recognize, particularly at this moment, that sexism is not an opinion. Islamophobia is not an opinion. Racism is not an opinion. Homophobia is not an opinion. Jingoism is not an opinion. And so in our posture of listening, we also have to get comfortable with standing up and speaking out. Because I also agree that those of us who have been blessed, and by definition all of us on this stage today have been blessed, there's a responsibility with giving voice to the voiceless but also using our own voices."

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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