Do you have a cause near and dear to your heart? Did you know that you can tell your elected leaders about it, even visit them in Washington, DC? Professional lobbyists have developed a tarnished reputation over the years; but grassroots citizen lobbyists –ordinary folks like you and me — remain an authentic part of the democratic process. I recently visited our nation’s capital for only the second time as a citizen lobbyist (unless you count the time I visited with a 4-H group as a teenager). I asked the US Senators from Tennessee to listen to me and their other constituents and support real chemical safety reform that can protect pregnant women and children.
My day began as a guest at the Tennessee Tuesday breakfast. Another mom friend from my area, Renee Conger, also attended. I brought along a banner signed by around 70 Tennesseans, all asking for safer chemicals. We had our photo taken with the honorable US Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
Our day continued at the national Stroller Brigade attended by hundreds of people who are part of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition that represents millions of people from across the country. SCHF made my trip possible, and I have personal reasons why I wanted to volunteer my time to appeal for moderate safety reform. I’ve already lost my mother to cancer, I’m concerned that more and more young people are getting chronic diseases, and I want a healthy future for my children. Throughout the blogosphere and in person I hear similar concerns from you.
At the Stroller Brigade I unofficially adopted businesswoman Shane Shirley-Smith as part of our little Tennessee delegation, because she grew up in Chattanooga. It was empowering to know that Tennessee business and medical leaders were also part of the grassroots support that encouraged me to attend.
Then it was time for the really intimidating part of my day. Unlike a previous time when another mom from Memphis accompanied me, I set out on my own to the official Senate office building for meetings with Senate staff. The staff members from Senator Corker’s office were very cordial and gracious with their time.
As it turned out, I had an earlier chance to meet with Senator Alexander’s friendly staff at the breakfast. So, I only needed to make a quick stop by that office to drop off some fact sheets and to leave the simple, quilted banner as a gift. I so appreciated all of those people from East Tennessee signing the banner in support of safer chemical reform, and I especially appreciated that many of them prayed for my visit. I decided to leave the banner with Senator Alexander’s office because he is already a co-sponsor of some legislation that attempts to address the problem. I shared with his office that the measure needs stronger language that provides real reform of our outdated chemicals safety laws so it can truly protect pregnant women, children and vulnerable populations.
The cause I advocated for is safer chemicals, which affects everything from the mattress we sleep on to the cleaners we use to the backpack our child carries to school. While this issue is so broad that it certainly affects you, your cause might also be something else. When lawmakers listen to real citizens like you and me, maybe — just maybe — there is some hope of Washington leaders getting something done for the people who sent them there.