I loved growing up in D.C. as my hometown. My Maret buddies and I loved riding our bikes through Georgetown, sneaking into Dumbarton Oaks and the Swiss Embassy swimming pool on hot summer nights (not recommended given current security concerns). The Nation's Capital was our home and our playground.
Maret definitely influenced my political and activist career. Whether it was Mr. [Bob] Caiola taking us to protest the sale of non-union-picked lettuce at a produce warehouse, or Mr. [Barry] Rosenberg's course on revolutions, or Mr. [Leonard] King's in-depth analysis of the interwar period in Europe, we were taught to question assumptions (a necessity in my current work to undo two hundred years of disenfranchisement of D.C> citizens.). We were also instilled with a belief that we can be leaders in society, that we can do anything if we set our minds to it, and that we have a responsibility to make the world a better place.
While a junior at Maret, with help from my biology teacher, Mr. [John} Peterson, I conducted a water quality analysis of Sugarland Run, a tiny stream out near Sterling< Virginia (thank you, Mr. Peterson, for getting me outside the beltway!). This experience encouraged me to pursue environmental studies at Bowdoin College. Then my interests turned to economics, particularly questions of resource use and wealth distribution.
After transferring and then graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I worked in the area of international development policy and traveled throughout the Eastern Caribbean studying the effects of international trade rules on their economies. Then I went to law school with an interest in public policy. I actually had a five-year plan: Start law school, work on the '92 presidential campaign, then get a political appointment. It's the only long-range plan I ever made and somehow it worked out. I eventually got a job with the Labor Department promoting worker rights and discouraging child labor through international trade agreements. This time my work took me to five African nations.
But D.C. always called me back. After years of meeting with local activists in countries around the world, I yearned to make a difference at home. When I learned of the renewed efforts to win voting rights for D.C., I could feel all of my academic and activist training being brought to bear on an issue that resonated with me personally. When I stopped to think about it, I realized how outrageous it is that more than half-a-million American citizens are denied the most important of all democratic rights - the right to representation in the body that governs them. "Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny!" were revolutionary words in the mid-eighteenth century, Caiola, Mr. Rosenberg, and Mr. King were all whispering in the back of my head, "Do it, make a difference, take action!"
By 1997, I was ready to work on behalf of my hometown. A group of us created DC Vote, which is drive by the mission of winning full representation in Congress by forming a strong coalition of local and national organizations. We helped to put the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" on the D.C. license plates, and we're currently working on changing the D.C. flag. We've held tax day rallies, and we'll probably dump tea into the Potomac sometime. Most Americans are unaware of D.C.'s unique status, so DC Vote works to educate the nation, and more importantly, Congress, because only Congress hold the power to grant us the representation we deserve.
As mad as I get sometimes about our lack of voting rights, I try to keep in mind that this is a long-term struggle. Washingtonians have been fighting against our second-class citizenship since the founding of the District in 1800. We're not going to win our rights this year or next year, but the morality of the struggle is so clear, and the potential benefit to the city and its residents is so great, that I believe we will win. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice." I just hope that at least my children will grow up with the opportunity to be elected to the U.S. Senate, without having to move out of our beloved city.
Daniel graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Berkeley and earned a J.D. degree from Northeastern University of Law. He currently serves as Board Chair of DC Vote.