Guest Blogger: Lisa Michael
Until last month, my role as a long-time advocate for the AHA has never brought me to a local legislative office. I've been in on group meetings at both state and national lobby days, yet I've always felt a bit overwhelmed (and slightly intimidated) by the thought of going on a personal visit by myself. However, when Amanda Andrews, Montana’s Government Relations Director, asked me to do a drop-in visit in support of school nutrition standards, I took a deep breath and said yes.
Living in the large state of Montana, it's rare that a senator will be in any one place too long during the August recess, but I felt pretty lucky to have access to a local office branch less than five miles from my house. I had just received the materials that I needed to bring along (the puzzle and a fact sheet) so I was ready to go. After retrieving the address and phone number for Senator Walsh's Bozeman office from his website, I called to make an appointment. I was pleasantly surprised that I could come in the next day.
Having worked in the public schools for the last nine years while also living with heart disease, I had a perfect background from which to advocate for healthy school lunches. I also made sure to study the current facts, and I outlined a brief message to deliver. I even put the puzzle together so I could demonstrate the visual easily.
When I arrived, I was greeted warmly by both of the women staffing the office. The gentleman whom I was to meet with was sick, but Jane, who stepped in for him, had been briefed so she was completely prepared to sit down with me. I delivered the puzzle in the lunch bag and we spent some time going over the facts and the concerns. She took detailed notes and was very engaged in the conversation. I was immediately at ease and before leaving I asked for a picture. I left feeling energized and empowered. I also know that I'm comfortable enough to call again when needed.
It's strange how little fears (like meeting with a congressional staffer) can be assuaged by confronting them. I can't believe I've missed out on so many past opportunities to communicate with my senator because of this little obstacle. Now that I've cleared it, I'm ready to do it again.