Part II of the series, Everyday Advocacy

Talking with elected officials is a facet of public life that is ripe for resurrection. We as constituents have the ability to write to, meet with, and attend public meetings with electeds.

Here’s the secret to being heard: Be nice and offer solutions if you can.

Because I’ve repeatedly provided my electeds with helpful information, they see that I am a reliable resource. I like to think of myself as a “critical friend” – eager to help the policy process but also willing to hold policy makers accountable.

“Honor your commitments, not your feelings.” I learned this mantra at a women’s business leadership conference, and I use it to decide what I commit to – because I don’t want to back out of commitments.

Here are some recent ways that I’ve engaged with elected officials:

I spent three days in DC at events to promote policy that helps get more kids outside for recreation, learning, environmental stewardship, and health, hosted by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. The last day was the Hill Day, where constituents visit their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. 

I met with the staff of US Senator Tim Kaine, where I strategically shared told the stories of how three national policies currently in play in Congress would help or hinder lives and economies in Virginia. It was clear I had been living and working on these topics for nearly two decades – I was joined in the meeting by a bright woman nearer to the start of her career, and she later said she was blown away by my ability to connect specific national policy points to local examples, all in a conversational yet intentional manner.    

Recently I gave public comments to the 20 Virginia legislators that represent my county, requesting more funding for public schools and the advancement of a statewide environmental literacy plan. This was my third consecutive year at this hearing so I was familiar to many officials, and was even approached by one right after my remarks to offer encouragement and support on the specific policy. As I stayed to listen to nearly all of the 100 speakers that day, I learned a lot about priorities and work in Fairfax. Showing up matters. 

Democracy is not a spectator sport! Get on in there.

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