Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the United Nation Foundations Shot@Life Champion Summit. 100 volunteers from across the country gathered to hear updates about Shot@Life’s global vaccine program, strengthen our advocacy tool sets, and spend time on the Hill meeting with our respective members of Congress.
There’s much to say about the UN Foundation’s incredible programs (and commitment to their volunteers) – but that’s for another day.
Instead, I want to focus on our current political climate – And to preface this, this is NOT a partisan post.
The best thing to come from the recent Presidential election is that so many people are now paying attention to our national political landscape. That (I hope) will trickle down to both state and local levels of governance.
This shake-up shows us that we, as citizens, no longer have the luxury of complacency – which circles me back to last week’s trip to Washington, D.C. After several days (and my second year) of training, meetings, and discussions with other volunteer groups also working their way around the Hill, here are the messages that resonated most with me:
1. Commit to taking action.
No matter what your political affiliation, being an engaged community member is more critical than ever. With some of the proposed legislation moving more responsibility and leverage to the state level, ensuring you get to know both your federal and state reps is imperative.
2. Take a deep breath before you engage.
We are in a particularly volatile time and nearly everyone is on the defensive – so keep your statements and reactions measured. This carries across all mediums, from writing online, commenting on a Facebook feed, or talking at a meeting. Communicate with respect.
3. Focus on policy, not rhetoric.
In other words, do not exhaust yourself over sound bites. What actions are taken and policies proposed when the microphones are off and crowds are out of view? Being able to cite specific, tangible actions and policies is more effective than getting caught up in – and dismissed – amidst the emotions of a speech or argument.
4. Understand your opponent by properly researching both sides of an issue.
In addition to taking careful note of the actions our elected officials take, we must broaden our education. We have seen how dangerous both fake and heavily slanted news can be, for both sides of the aisle. Vet your media sources carefully, and call them out if they report falsehoods or conjecture as fact. Dedicate time to consuming news sources that represent your opposition with the goal of understanding, not a rush to refutation.
5. Keep committing to the process.
Build relationships with your elected officials and active members of your community. Go to meetings. Make your voice heard through email, mail, and phone calls. Be a consistent presence.
It is a complicated time, to be sure. However, the interest and desire for knowledge is a positive direction. We are at our best when we arm ourselves with thoughtful and informed dialogue.
There are some wonderful stories in progress, so please visit again soon, or subscribe. New posts will come more consistently as I find my rhythm in this new space, and as work and family allow.
Photo credit: iStock