I’m here for other children.
I’m here because I care.
I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.
I’m here because those people are mostly children.
We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.
We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.
We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.
My dream is to give the poor a chance.
My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.
My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.
If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.
If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.
On Tuesday, the 18th anniversary of American activist Rachel Aliene Corrie being crushed by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003, I listened to her speech above once more. She was just ten years old when she made this speech at the Fifth Grade Press Conference on World Hunger organized by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Dec. 12, 1989. However, the strength and efficacy of the words she uttered proved that she was much beyond her years.
Rachel Corrie was born in the U.S.’s northwestern corner of the Washington capital of Olympia to a middle class family. Ever since she was in high school, she volunteered in social responsibility projects, and even deferred going to college to take a more active role in them. On the one hand she was lending a hand to the needy, on the other she was making contacts with people and organizations running global humanitarian projects. Within this scope, the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation and their suffering entered Rachel’s radar. As the daughter of a relatively well-off and liberal American family, the persecution of the Palestinians deeply affected Rachel. And this is what propelled her into the Middle East in her twenties. She would see what was transpiring with her own two eyes.
Traveling to Palestine, she met many activists like herself, who had come from all over the world, and there with them she attended resistance rallies against Israeli occupation. Shoulder to shoulder with the families trying to survive under occupation, they tried to raise their voices to the world; these activists sat at their tables, shared their bread, and virtually became one of them. As all this was happening, Rachel started to learn Arabic. Everyone who knew her loved her immensely, and her love for Palestinians was like a jubilant stream, and completely pure. In one now acclaimed photograph, Rachel poses while sitting under a grape arbor with a Palestinian family, with a hijab tightly over her head and a demure smile looking back at us.
And we have our tragic end... One day, Rachel Corrie, all by her lonesome, stood before an Israeli bulldozer preparing to demolish the homes of Palestinians in Rafah, south of Gaza. Warning the driver with a megaphone and trying to get him to stop, she was just 23 years old when she was crushed under the tracks of the monster machine.
The bulldozer operator who killed Rachel without batting an eye was a Jew who had emigrated from Russia to Israel. This little nugget of information makes the event even more absurd. A heartless immigrant who had traveled thousands of miles to an occupied land had come face to face with a conscientious woman who herself had set off from the U.S. As the operator proceeded to his destination to blindly follow his orders, the girl constantly shouting through her megaphone was naive but determined enough to think she could stop him. The apparent winner was the cold steel of the bulldozer, however Rachel had been burned into the minds of millions as a strong symbol of resilience against injustice.
For my part, I summarize Rachel’s story with the words: Conscience is not coincidental. A heart with a conscience is a sign of an intact humanity and an uncorrupted innate nature. Rachel’s conscience was what had led her to worry about the hungry children in far away lands of the world when she was just ten years old and stand against that bulldozer with her head held high in the prime of her life. And the presence or absence of that very conscience is what makes all the difference between being “human” and not.