Where Regnat Populus Meets E Pluribus Unum

Regnat Populus: the people rule.
E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one.

This past week, I have had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a group of young adults from the Arkansas Conference who went to Washington, DC to participate in the United Methodist Seminar program sponsored by the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. The program focused on hunger and poverty in Arkansas and across the United States, and as the Arkansas Conference is currently working on the 200,000 Reasons Initiative, it was a perfect fit for us as we learned about our own state’s statistics on poverty and food insecurity, as well as what programs and ideas have worked in the DC area, and figured out how we can bring that into the initiative.

However, it was more than that. The trip, in and of itself, was an exercise of our collective rights as citizens, an opportunity to imagine new, creative, and innovative solutions to the problems we face in our state, and an adventure into our nation’s expansive and storied capital. And while I know I can’t do the trip justice as far as describing it in detail, I will certainly give it, as they say, “the old college try.”

What We Learned

Our seminar room, with us in it.
Photo credits: Dane Womack

Of course, this trip wouldn’t have been what it was without the United Methodist Seminar program. The seminar programming was absolutely fantastic, with presentations and activities from groups as diverse as DC Central Kitchen, to the Washington Interfaith Network, and even the General Board of Church and Society itself. We spent time learning about the federal budget and how it’s shaped and allocated amongst the innumerable amount of priorities of the United States government. We discussed what could define a “living wage” for workers, especially those who are tipped (such as waiters and waitresses). We watched how groups in the DC area are working tirelessly to ensure that kids don’t go hungry and that people can learn and get a job, no matter their background or history. And all the while, we continuously asked ourselves “What are we going to take from this and do for Arkansas?”

It was that question that inspired us this week.

Part of our meeting with Tom Cotton.
Photo credits: Jay Clark

It was that question that inspired us as we met with Senators Boozman and Cotton and Representative Hill and asked them what they were going to do for Arkansans who go hungry. It was that question that inspired us as we took down notes and ideas to take home with us. It was that question that inspired us as we wrote down reflections, feelings, and anything that came to mind as we worked through this problem not just as individuals, but as a group working together for the common good.

What We Saw

Hendrix students (including myself) “throwing the U” in front of the Capitol.
Photo credit: ARUMC Young Adults

We also took the time to sightsee while in DC, and sightsee we did. I cannot honestly tell you the amount of walking that we did in total because my phone’s battery didn’t last the whole time, but I can safely say that it was easily in the 10s of miles, if not more for some of us. We took in the sights of the Senate and House office buildings, the National Archives, the Smithsonian museums, the Washington National Cathedral, and a whole host of eateries all around from Old Ebbitt’s Grill to District Taco, among other places. We also had tons of fun on the Metro rail and bus system, and I guarantee we saw half of the city just riding it alone.

What’s Next

Dome of the US Capitol
Photo credits: Jacob Turner

But it was our tour of the Capitol that inspired not only the title of this piece but also the actions we hope to take in the future. On our tour, the tour guide really emphasized to us the motto of the United States: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. This motto truly reflects the continuous operation of the United States: while we are many people, from many states, with many ideologies and backgrounds and beliefs, we all work as one country for the common good of the people. I personally believe that we can, and should, take that to heart with the 200,000 Reasons campaign, for while we in the Arkansas Conference are many people, with different ideas and different ways of doing things, we are all one body, in Christ, working to solve this incredibly important problem.

But there’s another motto that I believe also applies to all of this: regnat populus, or the people rule. Arkansas’s state motto covers another important aspect that we need to consider as a part of 200,000 Reasons, and that is our abilities as citizens to talk to our senators and representatives about the issues and provide our thoughts and suggestions, to vote for those who will best represent not only ourselves, but also all of the citizens of whatever the area may be, and to choose to support businesses and organizations that treat their employees fairly. It is through these processes that we can truly fight for social and economic justice, for fair wages and hours, for healthcare and family leave, for food security and fair prices for farmers and other producers, so that we may all be able to live in a more just society.

One final note: while I don’t know what the future holds for either the state of Arkansas or the United States as a whole, I do know this much. Today, a group of young adults from the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church came back from Washington, DC. We are all from different classes, colleges, backgrounds, political beliefs, you name it. But we have a shared desire to be leaders and truly transform the situation that 1 in 4 Arkansan children face, alongside our fellow church members, our neighbors, and our local and state organizations.

Let’s get started together. We’ve got a few ideas that might work, and 200,000 reasons to give them our best shot.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thank yous are in order for the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, the Arkansas Conference Board of Higher Education, the Arkansas Conference Board of Discipleship and the Methodist Federation for Social Action for their support of this trip!

Header: photo of the ARUMC Young Adult group, photo credits to Lori Fallon

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