Lobby Day. Hundreds of dental students gathered in Washington, D.C. to meet with senators and representatives from their states. The goal: to lobby for dentists, patients and dental students on behalf of the profession. If you have attended Lobby Day, you know the thrill of scampering around the nation’s capitol.
For most students, this is not the case. Dental school is tough and time-consuming, which makes travel across the country difficult. But all is not lost when it comes to advocacy. Being in the nation’s capitol delivering your message is incredible, but not always feasible. One of the best places to meet with a member of Congress is in their respective district.
Fortunately for constituents, Congress typically breaks for the entire month of August known as the “August Recess.” The recess allows members of Congress to spend time in their respective districts to meet constituents and campaign. This year, the Senate pushed back their recess until the third week of August to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items. This is the first time since 1994 that the Senate has postponed their August break. While Senators may be putting in some extra time on the Hill, the House of Representatives has no plans to delay their recess. This makes August the ideal time to schedule a meeting with your representative. Here are a few key points to remember when coordinating a meeting with your member of Congress:
- Be proactive. Most meetings are organized through a short survey on the member’s website. Be prepared to leave a brief summary of what you plan to discuss, as well as contact info. The scheduler should reach out to you within a week’s time to set up a meeting.
- Do your research. Know what pieces of legislation pertain directly to your issues. Is the legislation currently in the House or Senate? What support does the bill already have? Look up your member’s voting record to get ideas on how your issues will be received. At the 2017 American Dental Association (ADA) Dentist and Student Lobby Day, students and dentists urged members of Congress to support the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act”. This bill would amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act (1945), authorizing the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to enforce federal antitrust laws against health insurance companies engaged in anti-competitive conduct. In addition, the “Student Loan Programs under the Higher Education Act” was lobbied. This would allow graduate and professional students to use federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans to finance their graduate education.
- Be prepared. Bring business cards and know the issues you want to discuss. Have a personal story as to why these issues are important to you. Do not bog down the member with numbers and statistics. These details can be explained in a leave-behind. More information, including leave-behinds, can be found on ASDA’s website here.
- Stay relaxed. It can be nerve-wracking meeting with a member of Congress but remember they are people too. Rather than diving directly into your issues, start off with some small talk about the latest movie or sports game. Members are excited to hear from constituents because it shows them we care.
- Send a thank you. Handwritten thank you letters are the best. Thank the member for their time and be sure to send within a week of the meeting.
- Even if you aren’t able to meet with your member during August, there are other times that members come back to their districts. Stay familiar with the Congressional calendar, which can be found at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.
Following these steps will help lead to a successful meeting with your member of Congress. So get out there and advocate for yourself, your patients and dental students across the country. Finally, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Thomas Jefferson: “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
~Kyle Lantz, Colorado ’18, Districts 8 & 9 legislative coordinator