By Emily Hausheer
The following reflection is on the M.A. in Human Rights students’ meeting with Piero Tozzi, the Republican Staff Director of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
The Capitol building holds great significance in both US History and current events. It is a building of immense beauty whose walls have beheld great turmoil. The halls are painted with great scenes from history. Human rights heroes from around the world find themselves in the tableau of Capitol art. Just like the Capitol hallways depict heroes as diverse as Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Kosciuszko, Garibaldi, Kossuth, and Bolivar, the House Committees on human rights bring together diverse politicians whose unity you would never expect.
In our meeting with him, Piero Tozzi discussed the daily life of working on a committee and the necessity of bringing bipartisanship to global issues. He mentioned how, on the international stage, many Americans agree on issues such as Sudan and China grossly violating human rights. He shared anecdotes of people from the left and the right coming together in defense of human rights, like helping to bring a light to Chen Guangcheng’s situation in China. People put their partisan differences aside in the name of rights, an issue we can all unite under.
Tozzi explained that people as different as Representative Chris Smith and Representative Nancy Pelosi can find common ground on many issues, such as helping a Chinese dissident escape China. Across the political spectrum, many on Capitol Hill express disapproval of the way the Chinese government has been handling minority groups and silencing their right to free speech.
Regardless of our backgrounds or political differences, we are all called to be a voice for those who do not have one. The policy world is an important place to do just that. While working with others in the Capitol on important issues, you may find that your most unlikely ally in the human rights field was sitting across from you all this time. While policy work with Representative Pelosi and the humanitarian spirit of Saint Josephine Bakhita may look different on the outside, at heart, liberty is the foundation bound together by the social contract of humanity. Much like the pillars of the Capitol crypt hold the building by balancing each other, our rights depend on all of us (regardless of our political opinions) holding them up.