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Youth Environmental Movement Frustrated With Obama: 'I Want The President I Campaigned For To Show Up'

by Lucia Graves

WASHINGTON -- Ten thousand former Obama voters -- many of whom worked on his 2008 campaign -- will descend on Washington on Friday for a three-day climate summit. Events will culminate in a rally outside the White House, where thousands of young activists will gather on Monday, calling on the administration to think bigger on clean energy solutions.

Event organizers say that while they supported Obama during the 2008 presidential elections, they are still waiting for him to live up to promises he made on the campaign trail.

“I traveled to over six states for President Obama during the 2008 election," said Courtney Hight, former Obama campaign staffer and co-director of the Energy Action Coalition, the organization that is mobilizing this year's Power Shift conference. "I want the president that I campaigned for to show up. It’s time for the leader of the free world to stand up to big polluters and protect the public health of the American people."

The Power Shift conference, which takes place every other year, will open at the Washington Convention Center in the District on Friday, but this time, instead of supporting the president's energy policies, green advocates are striking a more ambivalent tone.

"We’re really glad we have Obama in office, but he’s not going to do what we want him to do unless we push him," said Maura Cowley, co-director of the EAC and a former Obama 2008 campaign staffer.

Organizers took issue with Obama's recent speech on energy security at Georgetown University, where he told his audience that oil drilling and clean coal are integral parts of America’s energy future.

Hight said that's not what she was lobbying for when she campaigned for Obama’s message of hope and change in 2008. Still, she hasn't given up on him.

"We like Barack Obama; we like that guy," said Hight. "It’s just more frustrating than anything ... We also know that it can’t just be him," she added, "which is why we’re so focused on movement building."

The biennial conference has a history of pushing Democratic leadership to embrace bolder environmental policies. Speaking at Power Shift in 2007, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) was shouted down before 6,000 fervent climate activists. “We want more! We want more!" they shouted. The young conference-goers demanded more drastic carbon-dioxide-emissions reductions. "80 by 2050! 80 by 2050!”

A weekend of canvassing, organizing, and speeches from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, will culminate in Monday's rally, after which, organizers have planned at least 200 visits to Congressional offices. The message for lawmakers, Hight says, will be to protect the Clean Air Act and stop taking money from corporate polluters.

Find out more about the event here and below:

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