First Ladies for Global Issues

U.S. presidents are often put in the spotlight, but what many people overlook is the work of America’s First Ladies. This list offers insight into the most influential First Ladies for global issues and their efforts to address these issues.

Top 8 Most Influential First Ladies for Global Issues

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt- Weeks after Franklin Roosevelt assumed his role as president, Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. Hitler’s reign spurred a European refugee crisis. Eleanor Roosevelt used her platform as First Lady to garner U.S. support for refugees. To that end, she came out as a supporter of the Wagner-Rogers bill. This bill would allow the entry of 20,000 German children into the U.S. The Wagner-Roger bill ended up dying in committee, but the First Lady didn’t stop there. Eleanor Roosevelt proceeded to establish the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children. USCOM was able to bring refugee children from France safely into the U.S.
  2. Patricia Nixon- This First Lady was known for her avid support of volunteerism and charitable causes. During her time in the White House, she made numerous journeys abroad. The first solo trip Patricia Nixon took was to Peru to provide relief supplies to earthquake victims. She later traveled as her husband’s Personal Representative to Africa and South America.
  3. Rosalynn Carter- Rosalynn Carter embarked on perhaps one of the most ambitious international missions taken by a First Lady. In 1977, she visited Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Jamaica and assumed the position of the President’s representative. She took part in meetings to discuss policy issues such as drug trafficking, arms reduction and human rights. She continued her work in 1979 when she learned of the Cambodian refugee crisis. After seeing the conditions of the crisis for herself, she urged the U.N. to get involved in the issue. As a result of her urging, the National Cambodian Crisis Committee was established.
  4. Nancy Reagan- This First Lady is well known for her efforts to address the global drug epidemic. In 1985, Nancy Reagan held a First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse to discuss solutions to drug abuse with other first ladies from across the globe. The following year, Reagan became the first First Lady to meet with the U.N. General Assembly where she highlighted the importance of attacking the world’s growing drug epidemic.
  5. Hillary Clinton- Hillary Clinton formed an impressive network with female global leaders across the world. She helped establish Vital Voices, an initiative that encouraged the incorporation of women in politics. She spoke out about gender equality at home and abroad. Clinton was one of the only political figures to draw attention to the violent treatment of Afghan women by the Taliban regime.
  6. Laura Bush- As First Lady, Laura Bush allocated much of her time towards improving global education and health. In 2005, she made the journey to Afghanistan to promote teacher-training institutions for women. Towards the end of her husband’s presidency, Bush continued traveling the world to promote the importance of global health. In 2007, she traveled to the Middle East to raise awareness for women’s health and breast cancer.
  7. Michelle Obama- In 2015, Michelle Obama launched the Let Girls Learn program. This program focuses on getting girls worldwide into school and making sure they remain in school. Let Girls Learn works with USAID, the State Department and the Peace Corps to carry out its mission. In 2016, Obama traveled to greet recipients of the benefits of the Let Girls Learn program in Liberia and Morocco.
  8. Melania Trump- Melania Trump has shown that she intends on following in the steps of her predecessors. She has targeted disease, trafficking and hunger as some of her main issues. The First Lady urged the U.N. to do more to aid these causes. She most recently embarked on a trip to Kenya, Egypt and Ghana. The First Lady was touched by the experience, and according to President Trump, there are intentions of helping these regions in the future.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Teddy RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy Roosevelt, is one of the most renowned presidents in United States history. He is popular due to his ruthless foreign affairs policies and his love of nature and teddy bears. Here are the top 10 interesting facts about Teddy Roosevelt and his lasting impact on the environment and poverty.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Teddy Roosevelt

  1. Conservation was one of Theodore Roosevelt’s main concerns during his presidency. The United States Forest Service (USFS) and 150 national forests were established under the 1906 American Antiquities Act. It has created the national parks enjoyed today while reducing pollution and extinction rates to native animals. During his presidency, Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land. While many consider the natural resources from the Earth to be inexhaustible, Roosevelt stated, “What will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted”. Throughout his life, Roosevelt was a popular advocate for environmental concerns and conservation.
  2. In his early years in the New York State Assembly, Roosevelt was a major proponent for the health conditions of businesses. He fought for a ban on homemade cigars after witnessing entire families suffering from prolonged exposure to raw tobacco. Although he was against government interference in business, Roosevelt fought for the health and well-being of Americans.
  3. Roosevelt made use of his power with presidential commissions to create changes, many which benefited the environmental, economic, and public health domains. For example, the Inland Waterways Commission established in 1907 to manage bodies of water and utilize them for transportation networks. While the commission had economic objectives, the plan included measures for flood control, soil reclamation and reduction of pollution, all which benefited public
  4. During his presidency, Roosevelt established the White House conference. In 1908, there was a conference focusing on conservation, and almost every governor present went on to form conservation commissions at the state level. This was a huge victory for conservation and public health in the interest of all Americans.
  5. Although Roosevelt’s foreign policy was militaristic, he was also capable of diplomacy and peacemaking. When Japan and Russia fought for control of Korea and Manchuria in 1905, Roosevelt arbitrated the conflict. In doing so, Roosevelt became the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and more importantly, mitigated conflict in Asia and the Pacific. In this way, Roosevelt’s diplomatic efforts have impacted America’s development on a global level.
  6. A popular fashion trend in the late 1800s was women’s hats to be decorated with bird feathers. To meet this need, poachers hunted species of exotic birds near to extinction. In response, Roosevelt made Pelican Island, Florida a federal bird reserve in 1903. Many other protected areas followed and the National Wildlife Refuge System was born. These initiatives help develop and preserve America’s ecosystems and reduce pollution that would otherwise contribute to poverty in some areas.
  7. In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt established the Reclamation Service, an agency that creates arable land for agriculture through the use of dams and irrigation. This service converted many dry areas into plots of land that could produce food. This service brought millions of acres of farmland into service and set precedent for success in America’s agricultural industry in years to come.
  8. Even after his presidency, Roosevelt continued to lobby for progressive policies. His strong advocacy for old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, child labor laws and women’s suffrage are the foundations for the future federal government. In fact, his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt would go on to create policies that supported these same causes. These efforts were all aiming towards the betterment of American peoples and an effort to alleviate poverty.
  9. Roosevelt was heavily involved in the construction of the Panama Canal. He took on the project when the original French construction company failed to complete it. In a speech in Congress, Roosevelt notes that “No single great material work which remains to be undertaken on this continent is as of such consequence to the American people.” Today, the Panama Canal is an important trading route connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic. It also fosters important trade between all countries in the Americas. Furthermore, the Panama Canal secures partnerships between the U.S. and Panama.
  10. Roosevelt reformed the basis of government-business relations. Initially, there were business titans that existed en par with the federal government. However, Roosevelt believed that the government’s role is to regulate big businesses. This is to prevent their actions from affecting the general public.

These top 10 interesting facts about Teddy Roosevelt provide some insight into one of America’s well-known presidents. His strong advocacy for wildlife conservation has resulted in millions of acres of federally protected lands and countless national parks and monuments. His foreign policy and peacemaking initiatives have set a high standard for U.S. foreign affairs in mitigating conflict and alleviating poverty.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Google Images

Kamala Harris's foreign policy

With such a broad field of candidates in the Democratic Primary, twenty in all, it is difficult to identify and to process the political positions of the various candidates. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has spoken on her positions on many topics including a $15 minimum wage and tax-cuts to the middle class. One issue that has not yet been discussed at length is Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform. Like many of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Harris does not have any direct foreign policy experience. As a former district attorney of San Francisco and later the attorney general of California, Harris holds strong experience and policy stances in regards to domestic policy. Harris currently holds opinions on the following issues: U.S. and Israel Relations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, direct U.S. involvement abroad, and North Korea.

U.S. and Israel Relations

Harris is a long-time supporter of strong relations between the U.S. and Israel, a topic that has become contentious within the Democratic Party. In 2017, Harris cosponsored a Senate resolution that challenged an earlier resolution from the U.N. Security Council which called for an end to the expansion of Israeli settlements into the West Bank region. This particular Senate resolution stated that it felt that the U.N. resolution condemned the state of Israel as a whole and not just the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. In the past, Harris has stated that she believes in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and that she supports U.S. backed discussion between the two states. It is too early to tell, but Kamala Harris’s foreign policy platform will likely include a continuation of her support for a two-state solution with an emphasis on a continued relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Senator Harris, along with senators from both parties, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP was introduced at the end of Obama’s presidency in 2016 and was promptly withdrawn by President Trump in Jan. 2017. The deal would have connected the U.S. in a formal trade agreement with Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. The agreement had the potential to increase U.S. trade and investment abroad. Harris’ own reasons for voting against the TPP include her belief that the agreement was not as apparent as it should have been to garner the full support and trust of the U.S. and that she found its intended changes to invalidate “California’s landmark climate change and environmental laws.” It is currently unclear if Harris intends to advocate for a re-entry of the U.S. into the TPP under revised conditions.

Direct Involvement Abroad: Syria and Yemen

In February of 2019, Harris voted against a Senate resolution proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that admonished President Trump’s removal of U.S. troops from Syria. Senator Harris did not publically explain her vote but may have been motivated by a desire to remove U.S. troops from Syria or a reluctance to be associated with a military presence that had not been authorized by Congress. Harris has also been vocal in her disapproval of U.S. support of a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen stating that she “believes we must reassert our constitutional authority to authorize war and conduct oversight.”

North Korea

Senator Harris has not made any direct statements regarding her planned approach to the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea but has declared that she disapproves of President Trump’s current approach to the situation. Along with eighteen other senators, Harris signed a letter to President Trump in 2018 stating that he did not have the legal authority to declare a strike on North Korea. From such a statement alongside her other positions in regard to U.S. foreign involvement in conflict abroad, Senator Harris’ foreign policy platform will likely include an emphasis on the power of Congress.

Though it is still early in the Democratic primary and many of the candidates have not yet discussed their foreign policy platforms, the above descriptions of the history of Senator Harris’ foreign policy positions will certainly guide the debates to follow.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Thomas JeffersonWho was Thomas Jefferson? Most people would answer that he is the author of the Declaration of Independence, a former president or a founding father. All of these answers would be correct, however, there are more interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson that many people are unaware of. Aside from earning an array of political titles, Jefferson did work trying to improve poverty, education and diplomacy both in and outside of the United States of America, yet these actions are frequently unheard of. It’s time to unearth Jefferson’s efforts in these areas by taking a look at the top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Thomas Jefferson

  1. He served as a U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson had a vast appreciation for the French culture. He was enamored with its cuisine, art and architecture. However, he also developed a distaste for France’s aristocracy and was dissatisfied with the state of poverty in France. Jefferson was disheartened with the mass amounts of poverty in France and is quoted saying, “I find the general fate of humanity here, most deplorable.”
  2. Jefferson supported poorhouses. Poorhouses were institutions that tended to members of the lower class. Jefferson strongly believed that poorhouses were underfunded and had failed in achieving their mission. Throughout his political career, Jefferson endorsed and sought to reform poorhouses.
  3. He wanted all children to have access to education. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson states that all children should learn some sort of “some art, trade or business”, but first, they should attend public school for a minimum of three years. He wished to ensure education for all children, specifically those who could not afford it, even if it came at public expense.
  4. Jefferson wrote his personal views on poverty into the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson spent much of his political career trying to save ordinary citizens from oppressive aristocrats. Jefferson touches on his personal views in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote that all men are born with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In Jefferson’s eyes, all men were born equal.
  5. He believed in self-reliance. Jefferson believed the government should assume responsibility for the poor, but he also wished to go beyond this. Jefferson wanted to make the poor self-reliant so they could prosper. Many of his poverty proposals were geared towards urgent needs and were meant to be used as a temporary solution until a person could get back on their feet.
  6. Jefferson believed in health care. Jefferson believed in the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Jefferson thought that “without health, there is no happiness.” Throughout his life, Jefferson made numerous attempts to improve health care. While he was in Paris, Jefferson worked alongside health care reformers to try to revise the French health care system. He carried his passion for health back with him to the United States and fought to reduce disparities in health amongst Americans.
  7. He supported the French Revolution. From one revolution to another, Thomas Jefferson believed that all people should have liberty, and he was a vigorous advocate of the French Revolution. During the revolution, Jefferson allowed Marquis de Lafayette and his fellow rebels to host meetings in his private residence. He also assisted Lafayette in drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
  8. Jefferson wanted slaves to receive an education. In a letter that Jefferson wrote to Robert Pleasants, he advocated that Virginia’s educational system should provide education for slaves to prepare them for freedom. Jefferson pushed Peasants to introduce this legislation. Jefferson saw education as a means of empowering the powerless to empower themselves.
  9. Jefferson was a diplomat. Jefferson made numerous contributions to U.S. foreign policy. While the Minister in France, he negotiated a highly successful commercial treaty with Prussia. As President, he solved longstanding quarrels with France over navigation rights in the Mississippi River when he purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.
  10. He was George Washington’s Secretary of State. Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary of State. He was appointed in 1790 and served until 1793. During his time as Secretary of State, Jefferson successfully enacted a policy of neutrality in the war between England and France.

These top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson illustrate how even more than 200 years ago, founding fathers were working to address issues that the world still faces today. As for Jefferson, if being the author of the Declaration of Independence and President of the United States wasn’t already enough, these top 10 interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson reveal his efforts to improve poverty, education and hostile foreign relations.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Sanitation Facility Act
The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act was scheduled to be seen by the House of Representatives the week of May 20, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. During this period, the bill moved through the House but still has to pass the Senate. Reintroduced after December 2018 revisions by sponsor Grace Meng (D-NY-6), the bill aims to “provide women and girls safe access to sanitation facilities in refugee camps.”

Moving the Bill Forward

In April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for the bill to be seen by the rest of the House for a vote. Co-sponsored by 42 representatives, the bill is an international affairs policy that would call the Department of State to ensure safe and sanitary conditions for refugees being held by the US government, with special focus on the conditions where women, children and vulnerable populations are present. It is intended to be an addition to the preexisting Section 501 of the Foreign Relations Act, U.S. code 2601 that states “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations.”

A Rising Crisis

According to the American Immigration Council, the number of people forcibly displaced around the world grew from 42.7 million to 68.5 million between 2007 and 2017. Under United States law, a refugee is “A person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution’ due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.” This definition has been a part of US law since as early as the 1951 United Nations Convention. Since January 2017, the admission of refugees into the U.S. has dramatically declined. The Trump administration lowered the refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 (set under the Obama administration) to 50,000.

As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending immigration cases and the average wait time for an immigration hearing was 721 days. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires all individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be detained until said hearing. Jarring images of these detention centers have been shared online, with depictions of children sleeping in cages and on the ground with no blankets. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act can help in providing more dignified conditions for refugees.

Though there are some organized efforts to provide sanitation to refugee camps, none of them are mandated by law. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act of 2019 would reflect in U.S. law the priority of treating all on its lands with human dignity.

– Ava Gambero

Photo: Flickr