Maybe you’ve heard of FCNL.
I first came into relationship with Friends Committee on National Legislation by way of a push from a Friend. They said, “This is important, you are important, you should team up.”
So I attended Spring Lobby Weekend (begrudgingly!) in 2014 with expectations of feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and disappointed in our government. But somehow, over a few days, FCNL sneakily transformed me into a hopeful lobbyist. I entered my representative’s office on Capitol Hill alone, prepared, centered, and, I believe, effective.
I had lobbied on ending the Authorization for Use of Military Force, an issue on which I certainly did not feel like an expert, but that I knew with my whole spirit was something that needed to be addressed in Congress. I was impressed by the smooth organization of that conference—how calm and prepared I felt in my new lobbying shoes. I was immediately energized by the 4 “We Seeks” that define the mission of FCNL’s operation:
We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored
I felt supported by the logical and radical concept of using morality as a common denominator. It felt right to say, “I know we have different views but I think we can agree that a society with equity and justice for all is something worth working for, and here’s what I think will help make that happen.”
I’m 26 years old, and since I was a teenager I’ve felt embarrassed to be an American. I didn’t want to be associated with the reckless consumerism, the racism, the violent greed I tied with our history and our current system– character flaws I had learned to despise growing up in Liberal– and Quaker– circles.
It was through difficult open-minded conversations that I finally realized that my disassociation would not change a powerful country that desperately needs to change. I needed to be an American. I needed to be heard as one, and to be heard, I needed to speak.
But I thought I was already speaking, right? I told Facebook how I felt, and my liberal friends supported me with dozens of clicks. I complained to my mom about the broken system. She was very sympathetic. But eventually I had to admit that, although my mom is important, and social media is a critical tool, the reality is that sweeping political change comes from …policy.
And did you know that our representatives are hired by their constituents to take our concerns to the nation’s government? Since none of my representatives have accepted my friend requests (lol), I’m stuck with writing to them and meeting with them to let them know how I want to be represented. It’s still a little overwhelming, because the system is complicated, and what impresses me over and over again is how easily FCNL prepares ordinary people to talk to their representatives.
The bottom line is: You don’t need to be an expert. You just have to be a human.
Bring your human experience with you, and tell your story; you are a lobbyist. Every time you tell someone what you need, you are a lobbyist. You can do this. And you have an incredible opportunity in the resources that FCNL provides at Spring Lobby Weekend (March 18-21, 2017)– this year the issue focus is eliminating economic injustice (specifically addressing healthcare and poverty in the U.S.)
If you are affiliated with PYM and are 18-35ish, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting can provide funds for your registration as well as travel and housing. Check it out here.
More about Spring Lobby Weekend.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I love Spring Lobby Weekend. I LOVE IT.
– Joey Hartmann-Dow, Lehigh Valley Monthly Meeting
P.S. How many PYM YAFs can you spot in this video??
Reposted, with permission, from Joey’s Earth 4 President blog, which you should definitely check out.