Blog: More than 2,000 sit in the freezing cold in Olympia to rally for their rights

Thousands brave the cold in order to listen to speakers give speeches on immigrant and refugee rights. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

The challenge of emceeing for an audience of more than 2,000 outdoors in 30-something-degree weather was keeping the program on time and on point. How do you keep an audience warm and engaged? What happens when the last speaker arrives late?

We had no choice but to wait for the speaker who is a state legislator. No one would dare offend any elected officials because they are the ones who determine the budget for social services.

Nan Htet, a Burmese domestic violence advocate of ReWA (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Improvisation saved the moment. The audience was transformed into dynamic speakers.  It didn’t matter that some people’s English was not perfect. It didn’t matter if some had no public speaking experience. Once the immigrants were at the podium, they fired up the crowd and became an unstoppable force.

“We immigrants pay $150 billion in taxes each year.”

“We want good education, so we can get a job”

“We are Americans, too.”

Each brave soul walked to the stage and spoke from the heart. At least eight spoke before the state representative finally showed up. We were so grateful for her presence, and the program wrapped up with an applause.

The organizer, Refugee Women’s Alliance, couldn’t have scripted the surprise better on its 5th Immigrant and Refugee Legislative Day at the capitol. ♦

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Photos on flickr