Channeling passion into change
My first time meeting a member of Congress, I was pretty starstruck. Little did I know that time on Capitol Hill would change everything.
Enough to get started
Back in 2017, I had never advocated before. I didn’t know yet how to do all the things I do now without even thinking about it: scheduling meetings with congressional offices, telling my story, following up with an ambitious policy ask. It’s all second nature now, but at that time it was brand new. I was passionate about ending poverty and making a meaningful impact in the world, and that was plenty to get me started.
I have some very personal experiences with anti-poverty programs – my dad lives in a nursing home and relies on Medicaid for his care, and in 2017 Medicaid was facing big potential cuts. I needed a way to channel some of my feelings into action.
It can be really easy to feel generally frustrated about an issue like healthcare policy, but not be sure where to turn or what exactly to do that will make a difference. Advocacy with RESULTS gave me that outlet and showed me how to use my voice along with other people.
Finding my path
Not long after my very first meeting on Capitol Hill, I found my path. I decided to go into a career in government and politics. I even interned for my representative’s office and worked on their political campaign soon after. I found my career trajectory through advocacy and the RESULTS Fellowship.
Now I’ve been a part of two RESULTS groups: one in St. Louis where my university was located, and another in my hometown of Tacoma in Washington state. I’ve grown in my understanding of the issues surrounding housing, global health, the racial wealth divide, tax policy, and more. I can schedule and lead meetings, give my laser talk (elevator pitch) confidently, write letters to the editor, and engage new advocates to help get them started, too.
Making change in the new Congress
For the first 100 days of the new administration, starting in January of 2021, RESULTS advocates will be reaching out boldly to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, pushing for meetings with all Senate offices and ¾ of the House of Representatives. Getting our message to those offices early on is going to be so important for making change in the new Congress.
Even if you have an elected official who may not agree with you, I think RESULTS does a great job of appealing to policymakers across the political spectrum in a nonpartisan way. Meetings are one of the most impactful ways to influence a policymaker – you can look them in the eye and speak directly, even when it’s virtual. Hearing personally from constituents can really grab their attention.
We all have a voice
Right now, with the pandemic raging, it’s important to remember that we’re all stressed. We care about a lot of critical issues, and we’re often just doing our best to hold it together in our own lives. I can’t visit my dad in his nursing home for the foreseeable future. Many people have lost their homes or are struggling to put food on the table. Lots of us are in crisis mode.
But for me RESULTS advocacy is a perfect way to channel some of that frustration and anxiety. It’s a cohesive, organized strategy, and a movement of people who care as much as I do that people have food, healthcare, a home, a good education. We all have a voice and something to contribute.
Joel Anderson is an advocate from Tacoma, Washington and a former RESULTS Fellow. He recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and is currently a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center.