Money Trail: Foreign N.H. Rebellion walkers look for U.S. to set the tone around the world

Last modified: 1/22/2015 6:08:54 PM
Shaken by a sudden, life-changing medical event, Julie Gervais de Rouville saw the N.H. Rebellion as a way to get back to the purposeful work she dedicated her life to years ago.

The Pennsylvania native and master of international affairs had been living in France for the past 10 years, spending most of her time caring for her two children, when she was struck by an epileptic seizure and rushed to the hospital.

She learned she had a benign tumor on the outside of her brain and was assured that it wouldn’t come back after surgery, but she said an event like that makes a person take stock of what’s important.

She’d spent years working on disability policy for the United States Agency for International Development in Vietnam and for the United Nations in Bangkok, all the while taking note of the differences in foreign governments and comparing them with the U.S. She said the idea of corruption in government is everywhere, but it’s incumbent upon a power like the United States to stamp it out and set the tone for the rest of the world.

“Of course wealthy people try to influence politics,” she said. “It doesn’t mean you should let them.”

She said after she recovered from an eight-hour operation to remove the tumor from her brain last January, she immediately rededicated herself to studying political philosophy in France. She soon found a TED Talk given by N.H. Rebellion founder Lawrence Lessig and knew she had to get involved in the walk.

She said some of the causes that are most important to her are the availability of affordable health care – she notes her operation in France didn’t cost her a cent – and income inequality. But she said the corrupting influence of money in politics needs to be addressed before those issues can be.

That notion is popular among members of the N.H. Rebellion. Danny Miller, who is studying astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he’s most interested in climate change policy. When he found that the U.S. didn’t have one that he thought was sufficient, he sought to find out why and concluded that money was the problem.

Pheebe Wong, who has a master’s degree in political science and is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at American University, said that in her native Hong Kong many people support the Chinese government, despite some of its unfair policies. She said many people there argue that the average citizen doesn’t need a vote, because the party knows what’s better for the people than they do. And despite questionable representation and censorship of anti-government speech, some young people point to America’s debt to China and assume that the country’s policies must be worth supporting.

“Just like every totalitarian regime, their goal is to survive at all costs,” she said.

As opposed to the rest of China, citizens of Hong Kong, which was previously under British rule, have access to Google and can openly criticize the government.

“We’re hoping to stay this way, but slowly since 1997, the Chinese government is slowly eroding that freedom,” she said.

She said the Chinese government is now implementing new rules in elections that amount to offering Hong Kong residents a decision between only a few vetted pro-Chinese candidates in elections. She was visiting Hong Kong during the outbreak of Umbrella Movement protests there last year and was tear gassed along with crowds of protesters who she said were as well-behaved as they could have possibly been, doing homework and bringing food to one another while occupying city streets.

She said the protest fizzled after a few months, but in northern New Hampshire, with the N.H. Rebellion yesterday, she was still protesting, hoping that reform of campaign spending in American politics can help set an example for the rest of the world.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325 or or on Twitter @NickBReid.)

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