Last Thursday I took part in GlobalSolutions’ Annual Lobby Day, where I lobbied members of Congress to show their support for International Law (specifically the Women's Rights and Disability treaties) and to increase funding for the International Criminal Court (ICC). At first this task seemed daunting – how do I, just another member of the public, get my representatives to listen to me? The last time I was at the Capitol I was practically interrogated by officials for trying to drop off a book. How in the world was I going to drop off my two cents?
As it turns out though, it is incredibly easy to meet with your representatives. And by easy, I mean it takes some follow-up time and patience to set up a meeting. And by representatives, I mean representatives’ staffers. (At least, I assumed they were staffers. For all I know, they could have been well-dressed interns who look old for their age).
With that being said, having a meeting did not necessarily mean you were listened to. My last name is not Koch, and I am not in a position to promise anyone a win in their upcoming election. It was not uncommon for staffers to appear disinterested, taking half-hearted notes, promising only to “tell all this to the Senator and let him form his own opinion.”
For every disinterested staffer, however, I found that there were always those who took the time to hear me out, took careful notes, and expressed genuine support for what I was advocating. While they too made limited promises (“we will try our best, but you know how tough things are right now”), they were the kind of promises that made me feel like something had come out of my day on the Hill.
So while it may seem like Capitol Hill is more like Capitol Mountain with no gondola to the top, it is more accessible than you think. While it is easy to feel that we do not belong – especially with the Capitol Hill gift shop reminding us of our tourist tendencies – it is important to remember that these representatives work for us, and we pay for the right to have our opinions be heard. It is just a matter of how we choose to utilize that right.