I am writing this as someone who had never taken part in lobbying before (#lobbyrookie – hi, I’m Krista, nice to meet you.) And now, after experiencing LOBBY:DC along with the hundreds of people who showed up to meet with their members of Congress, I am still reeling from the amazingness of it all.
The goal of LOBBY:DC was for committed activists to spend the day meeting with their members of Congress in Washington, DC, and urging them to take immediate, concrete action to fulfill their promises to help put a stop to the LRA. With all of the competing priorities in Washington, we know the best chance of making sure representatives use their special position of leadership to help end the LRA crisis is by demanding it…face-to-face.
Let me break the day down for you.
On the morning of Friday, November 16th, hundreds of lobby-ers arrived at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. There were fellow lobby rookies, experienced activists, young, old, seasoned, excited, uncertain, and ecstatic. The room was literally buzzing.
The morning kicked off with some words from our CEO, Ben Keesey, followed by Reverend Jean-Pierre Mboligihe Ndalu, the Director of Radio Tangazeni Kristo (RTK), one of Invisible Children’s partner FM radio stations in Dungu, DR Congo. We were honored that he attended the event and addressed the crowd. My favorite quote: “Some of you may have emptied their bank accounts to come here. Even to make a decision to stop your studies for two or three days to come here. That is a big sacrifice. A commitment sparred by love for a right and worthy purpose. Let me tell you, you all did well. Each. Congratulations!”
John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, took the stage (I almost hyperventilated) and everything out of his mouth was dripping in gold. Example: “When you believe in change you haven’t yet seen and we believe and act together, mountains can be moved, policy can be changed, lives can be saved, and the LRA can be stopped. Because you decided to act.” Oh, and “What you’re doing today is the bedrock of our democratic system.”
Everyone was seated according to their state, and all tables included a trainer who went through specifics about the hows & whys of the day. Once everyone was prepped and ready, we all embarked on Capitol Hill to meet with senators and representatives.
It was truly one of the more empowering experiences of my life. Going into the office of a state representative, sitting with other people who are passionate and committed to expressing their desire to see an end to the LRA conflict, and having intelligent conversations about believing in basic human rights…it was a day I will never forget. I cried approximately eight times. Experiencing the dynamic of citizens being face-to-face with their elected leaders who actually have the power to change history was downright exhilarating.
Here is the bottom line, according to me, the former lobby rookie: If you believe in something, use your voice to express it. Whatever it is. Stand behind it, take responsibility for it, own it. Everyone has a right to speak up. As citizens of this country, it is not only a privilege but an obligation to speak to our leaders about what matters to us.
After 800 activists had 300 meetings over a span of six hours, LOBBY:DC came to an end. But the buzz continued. And will continue. Because you see, your words are like seeds. Once planted, you watch them grow into something powerful and beautiful that gives life to hope and change.