Thirty years ago, a friend and I took our toddlers to watch the first Olympic Time Trials for the Women’s Marathon. With babies in backpacks, we hustled to various points along the twenty-six mile course to witness the field of 238 women make history. Two-and-a-half hours after the starting gun, we cheered Joan Benoit as she crossed the finish line. Three months later, she’d shave seven minutes off that time to win a gold-medal in the first Women’s Marathon at the Olympics in Los Angeles.
1984 – Joan Benoit
Getty Images / Tony Duffy / Allsport
At the time, I was a nursing graduate student at the University of Washington and was parenting a twin son and daughter. Often I felt as though I was running a marathon and wasn’t sure I could maintain the pace of both of these arduous endeavors. Like Joan Benoit at the time trials, though, I couldn’t quit. There was too much at stake.
Kate Gould, lead lobbyist on Middle East Policy for Friends Committee on National Legislation (FNCL), knows about marathons, too. She ran her first one a year ago in Baltimore, MD as a fundraiser for FCNL’s work to prevent war with Iran. Over that 26-mile course, Kate and six other FCNL runners spread the message that successful diplomacy requires patience and perseverance—just like running a marathon. The back of their t-shirts carried the slogan, “Diplomacy—It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon.”
In early September, as President Obama and the U.S. Senate planned military action in Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks there in August, FCNL urged people to ask their Senators to take a different approach and to adopt the motto on Kate’s t-shirt. Other peace groups around the world put out the same call, and thousands of us answered. By the second week in September, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would postpone the first vote on the Syrian strike resolution.
A few days later, FCNL organized a conference call to update supporters. Kate Gould and other seasoned lobbyists made comments like this about the changed U.S. strategy away from the brink of war in Syria:
Something to celebrate
Never seen anything like this.
Then came the reminder:
Diplomacy is a marathon, not a sprint.
As always, FCNL has tools for this work ahead, such as a tally on where lawmakers stand on Syria. Those from my state are still undecided, so I’ve written again to my Representative, urging him to support the slow, deliberate pace of negotiators like U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. I’m working on similar letters to my two Senators.
It’s kind of like the cheering on that my friend and kids and I did for Joan Benoit and the other women who trained for years and persevered with the hope they’d someday run at the Olympics. That’s what friends and family did for me when I juggled parenting and studies. Unlike the marathon, though, we don’t know how long this run will take, so I continue to hold all the leaders involved in this marathon of diplomacy in the Light. There’s so much at stake.