I have been fortunate enough to be invited to join a group of small business owners as we meet in Washington DC with Act|The App Association. It’s an annual event, this year in April. The days go so fast, but it’s so worth it. I have been several times, and will continue to return as long as I’m invited. A meeting can be deemed successful based on many different aspects. For me, if I feel that I was heard, it was a good meeting. Even if we didn’t agree or become besties.
Day one is for arriving and exploring DC on your own, then meeting the group for dinner.
Day two is heads down learn learn learn. Learn about what issues are most current and where we might be able to have some influence. What matters to me and my business? Big topics for us this year include funding for STEM education, government access to data and encryption.
So, day three. Lots of meetings. Lots. Learn something from each meeting. Leave a memory and a story. Here’s the rundown of my day three this year.
Started my day with The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. To talk about encryption and privacy. Just a small little meeting to start my day, get off to an easy start. Nobigdeal. No, wait, this is a big deal. A huge deal. There are active cases likely to go to SCOTUS very soon. There’s new legislation proposed that will overreach and impact every single person that makes software. Not to mention endanger the data and protection of our data as citizens. The meeting was great. They asked questions. Lots and lots of questions. They had their lists of arguments and asked for our counter-arguments. It was not at all confrontational, despite every other sentence starting with “not to be devil’s advocate, but…” I honestly felt heard. I feel that I likely had an impact.
I was in a great great mood. I headed to my next meeting, at Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office. It’s easy to say that that Doug and I disagree on most things. But, he is my elected representative and I needed to go and be heard. We had a brief chat with a staffer. The meeting was unremarkable. I had the staffer take my picture at Doug’s desk.
After a quick lunch it was back to the Senate side.
We were supposed to meet with a familiar face at Senator Michael Bennet’s office. We arrived and the senator was in the hallway posing for photos with a group of students. The staffer met us in the hall and we just started chatting as the senator rushed off to a vote. No big deal. Senator Bennet’s office is always receptive and welcoming. A hallway meeting in DC is still a meeting. Turns out I was wrong. It wasn’t a hallway meeting with a senior staffer. It was a walking West Wing style meeting. Walking fast, talking about important issues. Down to the tunnels, on the restricted little train to the Capitol. Yes, there was a vote happening. But we’re going to the reception room to chat with the senator when he finishes the vote. The reception room was this big ornate space, full of other people having there squeezed in meetings. Lots of familiar faces all around. The senator finished his vote and we found a place to stand and chat. He knew about me. He knew about my work with schools. He knew the things that mattered to me. He was either well-briefed or totally stalks my blog and social media.
Next up was Senator Cory Gardner’s office. Last time I was in DC, I emailed and asked to meet directly with the Senator, not a staffer. They said the Senator was busy but so and so would love to meet with you. I said I was busy too, and was getting on an airplane, the least he could do was meet with me. So last year, I met directly with the senator. He was new to office, had his temporary office in the basement of a Senate building. This year I met with a senior staffer and had a good chat about data privacy and STEM education. Was non-remarkable but just fine.
Last up was Congressman Raul Labrador from Idaho. The staff member we were scheduled to meet had a last minute conflict and we met instead with a senior staffer. I didn’t know much about things in Idaho, other than I’ve been there and it’s almost as pretty as Colorado and I have a few friends that live in Boise. So, when you don’t know what to talk about, try something you might have in common. Education! We all want our kids to be well-educated. Right? Well, the Congressman from Idaho feels very strongly that education is a state issue, not a federal issue. I can see that point, but the reality is that we have currently federal involvement in education and the Department of Education isn’t getting dissolved any time soon. That meeting was not very productive and felt like the longest meeting of the day. Don’t get me wrong, they were totally polite. We were welcome to be there. They gave us Cliff Bars (they are made in Idaho)!
The “we” I reference is different for every meeting. The other civilians like me join together for the meetings and for most of the meetings ACT|The App Association sends along a staff member (they are our saving grace if we forget a point, have a hard time saying what needs to be said, great moral support).