Relationship-building with a Member of Congress

February 8, 2011
by Sylvia Lewis, RESULTS Northern Detroit partner

In January 2010, I had my first meeting with Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan. It took a lot of courage and a few calls and e-mails to get the meeting. I have great admiration and respect for Mr. Peters and was honored to meet him. I was pretty nervous because I was new to RESULTS and had much to learn. My fellow Detroit RESULTS members were very helpful and encouraging. I kept learning as I formed a relationship with a legislative assistant in Washington, DC, and this relationship-building resulted in the congressman taking a couple of actions. This is the rewarding and fulfilling part of advocacy that keeps you working for more. In fact, I realized at the RESULTS International Conference in Washington, DC, that, while I was still out of my comfort zone, I was slowly becoming an activist!

Because I so admired Congressman Peters, I was happy to work on his campaign in the fall of 2010.  When I saw him or one of his staff, especially the scheduler, I reminded them very unobtrusively that I was with RESULTS. I simply wanted them to become familiar with me, and it seemed to pay off.  I had a great time at campaign events and gained more confidence in myself. 

However, the best part came when I e-mailed a request for a January 2011 meeting and, no more than one minute later, I received a response with a date and time to meet! What a difference a year makes. I was so excited about this meeting and about participating in our democratic process. It seemed a lot easier this time.

Although the congressman expressed strong support for our programs, there will still be much work and challenge ahead in the follow-up. So I continue to learn, knowing that I am progressing  as we work toward our goal of ending poverty.

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