[The following is a post from Camp Quest NorthWest volunteer Bridget Lombardo, reflecting on her recent trip to the other Washington for the Reason Rally earlier this month. – Mike]
View of the Lincoln Memorial during the 2016 Reason Rally
I’m writing this from the airport as the sun rises over our nation’s capital. Sleep deprived and completely wired, much like the end of camp, I want to take the time to reflect on my weekend adventures and share a few with all of you.
As it was my first trip to DC, I spent quite a bit of my weekend seeing sights and going to museums. The memorials and monuments were equally inspiring and heartbreaking. My personal favorite was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It made me wonder, if he had lived, would he have continued fighting for the civil rights for all as he said in so many of his speeches despite his religious background? What kind of an impact could he have had in the fight for LGBTQ rights? Would he have joined the revolution, or would his religion prevent his intervention? I would love to have had the opportunity to find out.
But more than just being a tourist, the real reason I flew across the country was to help Camp Quest volunteers from around the US help run the family tent at the world’s largest secular rally, the Reason Rally. I’m not sure at this time the specific numbers of people who attended the rally, but it was significant and we had a steady flow of visitors to the family tent throughout the day. It was very hot and humid for this poor northwest native, but the positive energy of the people around me made the day fly by. I was surprised as to how many families I spoke with who had never heard of Camp Quest, but rest assured they left with more information than they ever expected. Not surprisingly, none of the attendees I met were from the northwest region since I can attest to how long this flight is. There were a couple of friendly faces among the volunteers though. It was wonderful to see both Mary Barzack and Ben Frey, both of whom had volunteered for Camp Quest NorthWest at previous sessions. We also had a few of the speakers pop into the family tent, including Laurence Krauss and Shelly Segal. (I even got a hug from Shelly!)
The rally was held at the foot of the Lincoln memorial, in view of the Washington monument, right by the reflecting pool. The importance of these landmarks definitely added to the grandeur of the event, but it was the people and the community who made the event so profound. Realizing that at all of the people in attendance (well, except for the protesters, but more about that later) were there for a shared purpose, a common goal, was simultaneously humbling and empowering. It was a reminder that I am not alone, that it is not just the people in my corner of the world who are fighting for the basic rights of all citizens.
As I rode the train back to my lodging after the event I thought about all of the children I saw throughout the day and how polite they all were, how thoughtful and considerate. I had this overwhelming feeling of hope for our future, along with the realization that this is just the beginning. All of the adults who spoke at and attended the rally are just a part of the first generation of the secular and Atheist activism movement. The movement is only going to get stronger as the next generation, kids who will be more likely to be raised in a secular home, come into their own. This is why Camp Quest is so valuable, not only to the freethought community, but to the world as a whole; to give the future generation the space and tools necessary to grow and continue the fight against irrational belief.
I can’t wait for this year’s camp session even more than before. Getting a glimpse into how our movement is progressing has given me so much more motivation to continue improving Camp Quest, for my own peace of mind, for our campers’ mental well-being, and for the benefit to the rest of society. I said it many times this weekend: my first week of camp changed my life for the better, and is the best thing I’ve ever done. I have more and more hope for the future as I see our young campers grow into their rational thoughts and compassionate behavior.
But I can’t do it alone. We are always looking for more volunteers to help out for our week-long camp session beginning August 14, 2016! If you’re interested in joining this amazing team of dedicated volunteers, submit your application today!