Aside from impacting future legislation and getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how our government really works, one of the most rewarding parts of this year’s Roll on Capitol Hill was seeing so many new advocates transformed from nervous newbies to confident, committed and passionate pros.
The prospect of rolling from congressional office to congressional office and meeting with our highest elected officials would be daunting to anyone. I remember the butterflies in my stomach the first time I made my way into the hallowed marble halls of Russell Senate Building. I also remember how quickly they disappeared when I realized all I had to do was be myself and tell my story.
As everyone made their way back to the hotels after this year’s Roll on Capitol Hill, the newfound confidence on the faces of so many first-timers reminded me of how easy and how rewarding it truly is to become an advocate.
In light of that, I’d like to use this space to challenge each and every one of you to take the next step in becoming an advocate. Whether it’s a simple phone call to your state or federal representative, scheduling a visit with an elected official, or starting or joining a local advocacy group, take a few minutes to let your voice be heard. You don’t have to know the details of House Resolution 942, or the ins-and-outs of Medicare and Medicaid — all you have to do is share your story and what you deal with every day.
If you have ideas about how to improve things, great! If you don’t, no worries. The reality is most of the people who make our laws and policies have very little understanding of what people with spinal cord injuries and disorders deal with on a daily basis. The only way that will change is if we educate them.
There is no one who knows what you face better than you. I promise you it isn’t as hard or scary as you think. I’m willing to bet you will enjoy it and undergo the same transformation I saw on all first-timers in D.C.