Me? Advocate on Capitol Hill?

    Experienced advocates share their experiences during the 2017 AACTE Day on the Hill.

    The buses pull around the corner. Capitol Hill is buzzing with activity. This is your first time advocating. Butterflies begin to fly and then you remember: You are well prepared for this thanks to AACTE!

    You’ll feel comfortable and confident as you head into Day on the Hill (June 6) because of AACTE’s extensive orientation the day before. During this “prep day” (June 5), you will be introduced to folks who are seasoned veterans at this type of work. They remember what it was like to be in your shoes and to be taking their first journey into advocacy.

    We will begin in Advocacy 101, where you’ll get to ask and get addressed some of your biggest concerns. No question is too small or too silly! What do you call your representative? Should you accept water or coffee? All of the folks in your sessions will have, as they say, been there – done that – lived to tell about it. You will go step by step through strategies for introductions, conversation starters, ways to maintain the focus on educational issues, and how to close your meeting. You will have time to practice so you can actually try out the strategies you’re learning. All this will quell those butterflies to a manageable state.

    Critical to being a good advocate is putting your personal politics aside. You might need to meet with those you do not politically support, and you never know just who your ally might be! You will learn how to find common ground and bring your full attention, intellect, and passion to the meeting.

    Finally, AACTE will walk you through the realistic experience of meeting with your representative or her/his staffer. What if you forget what you are going to say? Forget to throw out your gum? Get tongue-tied? It’s all OK! Once again, experienced advocates will be there to share their most embarrassing and/or challenging moments and how they still managed to get their point across.

    Day on the Hill participants share a moment at the congressional breakfast: We’re really on Capitol Hill!

    So let’s finish that opening scene of Day 2: The buses pull around the corner. Capitol Hill is buzzing with activity. You step off the bus surrounded by people who are as excited as you are to support our profession. You see the volunteers at each corner telling you where to head. You feel calm and confident. You start with a wonderful breakfast and an inspiring welcome. You’re ready – armed with knowledge and passion for the profession. Go to it!

    Beth Giles-Klinkner is a member of AACTE’s Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy. For more information about AACTE’s Day on the Hill and Washington Week, visit aacte.org.

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    Beth Giles-Klinkner

    University of Wisconsin Madison

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