It’s a Good Time to Speak Out
Over the last few years, I’ve talked about a lot of different healthcare issues. I’ve tried to explain how each of the issues and the proposed solution will affect older Americans and almost always at the end asked you to contact your lawmakers and tell them how you feel about the proposed rule or legislation. I’ve stressed how powerful your voice is when those that represent you in Washington hear from a constituent. The most powerful scenario I know of is when a constituent sits down at an appointment with one of their senators or their representative in the House and their opening goes something like this, “Hi, my name is _______ and I’m one of your active constituents. Every Saturday morning a few of my friends and myself meet at McDonalds and talk about our government and the issues that are being discussed in Washington that affect us. I’ll be going back to see them next Saturday and I’d like to tell them where you stand on the following issues”. It’s this kind of meeting that gets right to the roots of a representative democracy. We have the power of the vote, and we also have the power of speaking directly to our lawmakers to tell them where we stand on the current policies. Your senators and representative should be extremely interested in what you have to say, and there are some things you can do that will increase the impact of your meeting.
Meet with your lawmaker – It is important that you not be pushed off to meet with a member of the lawmaker’s staff. As a lobbyist, I often met with the chief of staff, or the legislative director or a legislation assistant who had jurisdiction over the particular policy on which I was lobbying. That was fine, but as a constituent, whether you’re meeting in Washington or more likely in the local office, you have the right to speak directly to the person who represents you in Washington.
Do your homework – Do some research to find out how your lawmaker has voted on related issues. Find out what committees and sub-committees they belong to. Read their news releases and op-eds. Find out what legislation they have introduced. Listening to their statements and questions at congressional hearings can give you some valuable insight as to what is important to them. Prepare 2 or 3, no more that 4, questions for the meeting. You should expect the meeting to last 15 to 20 minutes, so you need to be brief.
Be organized – Make sure your questions are concise and brief. After the beginning pleasantries, the meeting should move to your specific questions on the particular polices or stances that you are interested in. This is the time for you to listen, not only to the answers but to the body language and attitude of your senator or representative. She or he is a person, and it’s good to get to know them as an individual. Ask follow-up questions if you don’t understand some part of the answer. This isn’t the time to voice your opinion, it’s the time to listen.
Voice your stance – After listening to the answers give a brief overview your position then communicate where you agree with their answer to each question or, if you disagree with some or all of their stance, where you disagree and why. This is the time to be direct and concise.
Be respectful and gracious – Representing you in Washington is a hard and often thankless job. Be sure to relay how you respect and honor their willingness to be a public servant and to meet with you. Thank them for sharing their position on these important questions and assure them that you will relay their answers to those you talk with.
As you can see, it takes some work to have a successful meeting with those who represent you in Washington, but it can have a big impact. Any good lawmaker will listen intently to a constituent who comes prepared and is thoughtful and articulate in voicing their opinion. I encourage you to take this opportunity during the summer recess to make an appointment with one of you lawmakers and take advantage of one of the most powerful aspects of a representative democracy. You can find out who your lawmakers are by clicking here.
Along those lines, I have begun the process to meet with my Representative in the House, Blake Moore, a Republican, who has served since 2021 in Utah’s District 1. He is a fairly new member of the House but serves on the powerful House Ways and Means committee, on the subcommittees on Health, Social Security and Work and Welfare. He also serves on the House Committee on the Budget. As you can see, he serves on committees that affect older Americans, so I’m looking forward to a productive meeting.
My first step was to fill out an on-line request for a meeting in the local district office. I did that on August 7th. Since I haven’t received any communication back, I sent a follow-up email asking about the meeting application on August 13th. I’m not too concerned about the lack of return communication since this is a terribly busy time at the local office, but I will continue to follow-up to get a meeting scheduled.
I will continue to keep you advised on the meeting in upcoming blogs. Hopefully, it will get you motivated to schedule a meeting of your own.
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