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LI artist-activist, 11, meets more Washington officials

Olivia Bouler, 11, of Islip, and her mother

Olivia Bouler, 11, of Islip, and her mother Nadine exit the U.S. Department of the Interior after meeting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on the BP oil spill cleanup. (July 13, 2010) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

WASHINGTON - Olivia Bouler had a tight schedule Tuesday.

Crisscrossing Washington, D.C., with a toy brown pelican tucked under her arm, the 11-year-old artist-turned-activist met with a congressman, an adviser to the president, two senators and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"He gave me a high five and he hugged me," Olivia, of Islip, gushed of her meeting with Salazar when she emerged from the Department of the Interior. "We talked a lot about the oil spill and what we should do to conserve and protect our environment."

Walking the seemingly endless hallways of the Capitol, Olivia - with her mother, Nadine, her father, James, and her 6-year-old brother, Jackson - delivered the same message, again and again: "I hope that we can preserve this Earth for future generations."

When she said those words to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), he told her: "We're working on it right now."

Olivia, who with her artwork has raised an estimated $165,000 for birds affected by the BP oil spill, met Monday with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Tuesday, her introductions included Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Carol Browner, President Barack Obama's top environmental adviser. Exchanging more hugs and high fives, and presenting handmade watercolors of the birds she loves, she thanked them for their work in environmental conservation and clean energy policy.

"Don't think for one minute your presence here doesn't mean anything, because it does, it does," Engel told her during a half-hour visit in his office. "I really believe one person can make a difference."

Olivia already has. Offering watercolors to people who donate to the National Audubon Society and other wildlife organizations, she launched a national fundraising campaign to rescue birds affected by the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and restore their habitat.

Her Facebook page has nearly 28,000 fans.

"It's great that you've learned a lesson of advocacy," Gillibrand told Olivia. "You care about the birds. . . . People all across the country now want to help you save those birds. You're a great citizen and you're how old?"

"Eleven," Olivia answered. "That's extraordinary," Gillibrand said.

Wednesday, the young Audubon ambassador is scheduled to meet with Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington). Thursday, a boutique in the Manhattan's Meatpacking District, Ports 1961, will auction three of her pieces.

And soon, some of her watercolors - a bald eagle for Schumer, an American kestrel for Gillibrand and a brown pelican for Engel - will hang in some very important offices.


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