By Michael Moss, M.A. student
As part of the Masters in Human Rights, this semester I am interning for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission under the House Foreign Affairs Committee. As staff in the bi-partisan commission, I work in the office of Chris Smith, a Congressman from New Jersey’s fourth district. Chris Smith is an ardent worker for the sanctity of all lives, born and unborn. Besides his work protecting the vulnerable at home and abroad through the Human Rights Commission, Congressman Smith is a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Those who watched the rally heard President Trump mention him among the champions of the pro-life cause.
My day began with work for the Tom Lantos Commission, line-editing a bill on neglected tropical diseases in the United States. Around noon, I walked from our House office building down through the National Mall to meet my classmates and friends outside the rally. I am always amazed at the turnout at the March for Life – people I haven’t seen for years, living all across the country, travel to Washington to defend the lives of the unborn. A typical day on the mall for the March includes running into friends from schools, dioceses, and other organizations every couple minutes. It’s an encouraging reminder that the culture of life extends far beyond what I do or see in the course of my own routine.
I watched the presidential motorcade drive past as I walked down the Mall, so I was not able to attend the rally or hear the President speak. But the area outside of the rally was energetic too. The March for Life always involves discomfort at first, in part because the individuals one encounters on the way to meeting with a group seem to be less interested in building a culture, legal system, and economic environment conducive to cherishing all lives from conception to natural death than in using a large public demonstration to make their own bespoke political statement. Also frustrating are the individuals who factitiously make the pro-life issue just another element of a cultural and political war of attrition, disregarding the possibility that people on both sides of the political aisle are generally motivated to make the world a better, more welcoming place for all. Fortunately, once the March kicks into motion it becomes clear that nearly everyone is there for charitable reasons. I spent a lot of time standing on the street waiting for the March to start moving, which gave me time to see all the groups of normal, good people around us. My small group was wedged between students from a small college outside Pittsburgh, a group from a diocese somewhere in Wisconsin, and another group from St. Louis.
My favorite moment of the March for Life is always the view back from Constitution Avenue just before turning to approach the Supreme Court. When I looked back this time, the end of the March was not in sight – a powerful visual statement of the movement’s size and strength. A mother next to me was struggling to lift her young son above the heads of the crowd. I was able to lend a hand and was rewarded by his own wonder at seeing the mass of people.
I returned from the March to help out with a reception hosted by Congressman Smith for Marchers from New Jersey. It was a fun, busy affair with loads of glazed donuts to re-energize the travelers. As I entered the hearing room-turned-reception, the Congressman was delivering a short speech describing the accomplishments and future goals of the pro-life movement. I was struck by his personal engagement with the effort – he has been working for this cause in Congress for almost four decades. I’m grateful for his work, and for the work by my own friends who have already begun my generation’s contribution to building a world with justice for all.