"Instead, Find the Trim Tab . . . "

February 28, 2014
by Sam Daley-Harris, founder of RESULTS

RESULTS founder Sam Daley-Harris will share this important message for all volunteers on the Citizens Climate Lobby conference call in March 2014. Thank you for this, Sam!

When Amy announced that Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers had had 179 letters to the editor published in January 2014, an organizational record, I thought, “Amazing!  Astounding!” Then I wondered, are we getting all the mileage and impact out of the letters and op-eds that we could? When you get a letter to the editor or op-ed published do you send it to your representative and both senators?  Do you, or does the person who is the group contact for each rep. and senator follow up on the phone to make sure the aide saw the letter or op-ed? 179 letters a month would mean more than 2,100 letters published this year.  2,100 letters sent to at least one rep. and two senators would mean 6,300 touches, 6,300 reminders with letters to the editor alone. 

Something else I wondered was, do you mention the name of your representative and senators in the letter perhaps thanking them for co-sponsoring a bill or asking them to co-sponsor or to make sure legislation is introduced? And do you realize that if a bill is not exactly what you want, you can urge your members of Congress to cosponsor the bill and work to amend it to, for example, by making the carbon fee fully refundable?  Do you also alert others on social media with a link to your letter? 

The germ of these ideas come from futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller.  Fuller would say, “If you want to turn around a huge ocean liner, don’t try to push it around from the front of the ship, don’t even try to turn the massive rudder.  Instead, find the trim tab, that little rudder at the end of the big rudder and turn that.  Then the rudder will turn more easily and then the ship itself.” Fuller would go on to say, “With regard to the Ship of State, don’t ever try to turn the whole government or even the rudder. Find the trim tabs and turn those. Then the ship of state will turn more easily.” So what are the trim tabs for turning the Ship of State? Members of Congress certainly are trim tabs. The media certainly are trim tabs.  So if a letter to the editor or op-ed is a trim tab, then you want to make sure your members of Congress see them.

When Amy announces the number of letters to the editor and op-eds that have been published each month ask yourself: Were they sent to the representatives and senators from that district and state. Did someone follow up to make sure the aide saw them? Did the letters mention the members of Congress by name? And did the letters ask for a co-sponsorship?  Let’s make sure we use all our trim tabs to the max. Congratulations!


Sam Daley-Harris, CEO

Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation

A Project of RESULTS Educational Fund

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