Reflections from a First Time Lobbyist
My name is Skye Dixon, I am from Muskogee, Oklahoma as a sophomore at Oklahoma State University as a biochemistry and molecular biology major. This is my first time ever in Washington DC and, in my second week here, I got a chance to go to Capitol Hill for the first time interning at RESULTS through EYA program. The EYA program is through the United Methodist church and was recommended to me through a lady at my church. When I got the internship I had no idea that I would be at RESULTS and working on what I am now. Working with RESULTS has been such an eye opener and I’ve only been here for a little less than two weeks.
I attended a Lobby Day with Bread for the World on June 13, and I loved every single minute of it. Getting to speak to my representatives and senators and telling them my thoughts about the budget cuts in the health reform bill and SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) was a real eye opener. I enjoyed getting to do hands on work and know that I am helping make a difference just by speaking to that representative about the issues I believe in.
On the Lobby Day, I had a set schedule of how things were going to go. The organization, Bread for the World, had everything prepared and ready to go. They gave me lots of facts and information about the programs that we would be speaking about along with some talking points, which really ended up helping in the end. For someone who was lobbying for the first time, this event was geared to helping me prepare and tried to work with you if that was the case. They had all the lobbyist in the room giving tips, and then had us split into groups by our states.
Lobbying is something I’ve never done before or even saw myself doing, and to be honest I was very nervous. I’ve never been one to go around speaking to people I don’t know without someone I did know by my side. In the back of my mind all I could think about was “First off, will anyone from Oklahoma even be there?” Not many people in Oklahoma (which is where I am from) attend these types of events or go to speak to their representatives. I kept trying to prepare myself in case I went to speak to all of the Oklahoma representatives by myself.
We had split into our groups and three other people from Oklahoma appeared, and my nerves began to settle. We began to speak about our past experiences in lobbying, two of them had plenty of experience, while another person and I were fairly new to the scene. The two that had the experience gave the other person and I some tips and told us how the meetings usually go. This helped a lot, as did asking questions, to understand how it was going to go. When I had first gone in I knew that I would be speaking to our representatives but didn’t know the before and after actions of the meeting.
My first meeting was at noon and we immediately got in to speak to Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma. Tom Cole is in the House and very involved in many committees such as the budget, appropriations, and rules committee and also serves as Deputy Majority Whip. And if you’re any normal human being, just like me you will be nervous to speak to someone that is in office because sometimes we act as though they are movie stars. Once Representative Cole and I started to speak and have a conversation, I realized he grew up where I was from and he understood where I was coming from. I began to feel better once I came to realize he is just like me, he just has the power to make a decision like this. It made it so much easier to speak to him and notice how he was agreeing with what I had to say definitely made a difference in my experience.
I had two more meetings to go, the second one was with Senator Lankford’s budget aide, and I got the same reaction from him as I did from Representative Cole. My third meeting was with Senator Inhofe’s budget aide and it went as I had expected it to. While they didn’t agree with everything I had to say, they said that they would look into the information I had given them. Even in offices that don’t agree with you on everything, at least you went and said how you feel and what you believe is right so they know.
So if you get the chance to go and lobby, do it because it will be such a great experience. Its nerve racking at first but it does get better throughout the day and eventually you will be questioning why you were even nervous in the first place. Like I said in the beginning, I ended up loving it! It was such a great experience and I honestly can’t wait to do it again. If you feel as though you would want to do this, the best place to start would be with RESULTS at the International Conference, where you can join them by speaking up at Capitol Hill, it is definitely something you wouldn’t want to miss.
Lobby Day with Bread for the World and Tom Cole