Ok…so I’ve decided I stink at blogging. My mind rarely thinks to come here to put my thoughts in writing regularly. (obviously!) But here I am, thinking about a week I recently spent in DC that ended with a lobbying day on Capital Hill.
The thrill that comes from meeting with a legislator face to face is one that is hard to explain. So few people actually take the time to go meet with their Senators or Congressmen/women that it gives them a feel that almost seems surreal sometimes. But having met with them multiple times now I will admit it gets easier each time. The prep work, the waiting, the meetings and the follow-up are all just pieces of the puzzle that make the experience so great.
This time I was speaking on behalf of RESULTS and Shot@Life together. The elimination of TB, Malaria and AIDS tie in closely with the eradication of Polio and vaccine accessibility to the worlds most vulnerable. So I was able to speak on both and express my passion for both causes in one meeting.
Me and fellow Shot@Life champ and RESULTS volunteer, Richard.
To make my point stick, I brought along visual aids to leave behind with legislators as reminders of what kids here in the US want for kids in developing countries. I asked children at local vacation bible schools to write down what they wanted to give a child a shot at doing if they could. The strips of paper offered suggestions like riding a bike, eating ice cream and getting hugs. Each of these strips were thoughtfully written out by hundreds of children and carried to DC by me to offer as a reminder of the world’s smallest victims and why they deserve to have a voice used for them. I was told that it was the most original leave behind that Congressman Roskam’s office had received before! (Which means it did what it was supposed to!)
Fellow RESULTS volunteers in Roskam’s office leaving behind the wishes of kids supporting Shot@Life from Palatine.
When you walk on the Hill from office to office you pass people in the halls who are making their mark on history. You pass doors that enter to rooms where history was already made. You feel the history pulsing through the walls and you know that you are part of that because you used your voice to influence, educate and persuade leaders to look at things differently and sometimes, even change their minds.
It really is an experience that I wish everyone could have. But so few do.
I met with my Congressman’s office with an aide while I was in DC.
Did you know that they (legislators) actually LIKE when constituents come in to tell them what matters to them? Did you know that they want to hear from you? Did you know that they listen to what you have to say? You matter because they work for YOU.
Someone told me recently that less than 5% of Americans actually have met with their legislators… not sure where that stat comes from or if it is even accurate, but it sounds about right based on the population of people I know. Not sure why that number is so low because a lot of people I know have a great deal to say about a lot of things, but it seems they don’t actually take that next step of saying it to the right people.
Whether it is a letter to your congressional leaders or a visit on the Hill, your opinion matters and is valuable. I encourage you all to use it and use it often. They more they hear from you, the more they listen… (most of the time).
You don’t have to go to DC to talk with your congressional leaders. You can stay in your local district and talk with them when they are home. A congressional recess is about to start in DC… which means your senators and representatives will be “home” for a bit. So why not make an appointment to let them know what matters to you. Take your kids along! They are constituents too (and one day, they will vote!). Let them tell what is important to them, too! I promise you, you wont’ be sorry you did!
On a final note, as I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just get a moment of “wow” when you get the chance to meet someone you have worked with from a distance that has been a champion for many of your causes and makes a difference for things you care about. I had that “wow” moment in DC during this visit while waiting for a meeting with a group of RESULTS volunteers to see an aide in Senator Mark Kirk’s office. While we waited in his office he actually entered the door and took the time to talk with us and take a photo, at our request. Having suffered from a stroke his mobility was limited, however, he made the meeting all that much more impressive at his desire to shake every hand, make a connection and stand for a photo. Again, that was a “wow” moment in my advocacy journey – I won’t lie.
So what will you do to get your “wow” moment? What will it take to get you to make the call and set up that meeting? When it hits you, don’t hesitate…make the appointment, go to the meeting and go WOW your legislators with your passion for whatever it is you are passionate about! I promise you, they want to hear from YOU!
The IL RESULTS volunteer delegation with IL Senator Mark Kirk in DC.