Ms. Levin Goes to Washington
April 5, 2012 BY Cindy Levin
Last month I had a meeting with my Congresswoman, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowksy, on global health issues. It wasn’t my first meeting with her, yet because it was my first as a Shot@Life champion, it was crackling with new energy. We introduced her to our campaign for vaccines in developing countries and showed her the news articles we’d generated about Shot@Life in her district. A new mommy-activist came with me to add her fresh, powerful voice. Plus, I brought my kids who have their own special relationship with her as they share ideas and a giggle or two. My second grader and my kindergartener are able to articulate why vaccines are important in a no-nonsense way that touches hearts of representatives and senators alike.
One reason I bring my girls to lobby is the influence of my own mother in my championship of global vaccine programs. As a nurse and public health official, she taught me at an early age the importance of immunizations to the health of a community. I now see my community as the whole world, including many mothers in developing nations. Like me, they cuddle and comfort their children through childhood illnesses. Unlike me, the preventable and contagious diseases they face are often fatal because they didn’t have the choice to vaccinate. Many of them are without clean water – much less Pedialyte popsicles – to nurse kids back from a nasty bout of rotavirus. I want my own children to have the awareness that promoting the health of other nations is not only compassionate, but good for us as well.
When I consider that together we can save the life of a child every twenty seconds through increased access to vaccines, it motivates me to take action every day. Yes, it takes time and dedication. It’s also completely worth it to have my Congresswoman look me in the eye and agree to support the things I value. I am part of a network of passionate volunteers across the country asking their representatives and senators for their support. Because of us, these issues of life or death for millions of children are not forgotten by decision makers in Washington D.C. When I got the email confirming the Congresswoman signed onto a child and maternal health letter at my request, I thought about the power of citizenship and how we are using it to save the lives of children every bit as precious as our own kids.
When you sit down to meet with your member of Congress, here are some tips for a smooth and effective meeting:
- Practice what you’re going to say to get comfortable with your talking points and why you personally care
- Bring a folder of Shot@Life fact sheets and your contact information to leave behind with your member of Congress
- Have a clear and specific request ready, like, “Will you support global vaccine funding of $145 million for the GAVI Alliance in the 2013 budget”
- Follow up with a handwritten thank you and make sure your member of Congress took the actions they agreed to take
Because few Americans ever take the time to see their member of Congress face-to-face, your voice is particularly powerful. Be bold on behalf of all the kids who need a shot at life!
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