One of our biggest rights and obligations as Americans is to be heard. We have an absolute obligation to make sure our legislators hear what is important to us, they represent us. Sure, we do it all the time with votes. But, the real power we have is truly our opinions and the expression to those that have the decision-making power that we have given them. Even if you didn’t vote for them, make them listen to you. They represent all of their constituents, not just the friendlies.
I have been fortunate (very very fortunate) to have been invited to attend a fly-in sponsored by ACT. (I’ve done this magical trip three times and will continue to go as long as I am invited) What’s a fly-in? In this case, an opportunity to brush-up on specific issues that affect me and my (business) world. ACT shares many of the same concerns that I face but they have the staff and resources to have done much more research than I, they also love to share that info. They help us look much more smarter when we take our meetings.
So this leads me to my first bit of advice Find a sponsor group. It can be big or small. You could even start one. If your special interest doesn’t already have a group, I’d respectfully suggest you have an obligation to form one. Why a group? Doesn’t your one voice carry weight? Well, sure, but the more voices heard, the more constituents that speak up on an issue, the more it is in the brain of that ELECTED official.
Next bit of advice: Pick your issues, you can’t have them all at once. Sure we have opinions on loads and loads of things. But just like we coach our kids to make a targeted wish list to Santa, you need the same when you ask for change in DC. Pie in the sky is great. But, targeted issues that are before Congress TODAY will get you somewhere. Know the agenda for now, know of that what matters to you. Also, don’t be that crazy person that demands Constitutional level change that only improves their own life.
Also, go to DC. In person. Get on a plane, drive your car. However you do it, do it. Stay in the outskirts at a cheap motel and take the metro if you must. But, there is nothing quite like wearing a suit and taking a meeting in those historic buildings. It really almost feels magical. And when you are there you know you have their attention, they will be listening and taking notes. If you can’t make it to DC, a phone call is better than an email, an email is better than apathy.
It is ok to meet with staffers. They work hard, they do research on things, make recommendations, they get stuff done. If you do get time with your Congressman/Congreswoman/Senator know your elevator pitch for the issues. And yes, pull out your phone and take a selfie with them. Put it on social media.
Finally, follow-up. Send a thank you card. Get a nice plain card with a pretty picture on it, write some kinds words with a pen and stamp that baby and send it.
Rinse and repeat. Issues change all of the time. Once is not enough, make it a regular thing to be heard. It is your obligation.