FCNL: The Lobby Visits

In Mid-November, five QVS volunteers went on a trip to Washington D.C. to experience lobby training and to have the opportunity to lobby our members of Congress through a Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Quaker Public Policy Institute (QPPI) program.  In this series, I have written three sections: the first in which I seek to describe the beginning program events and sessions, the second in which I specifically describe the lobby visit experience, and the third in which I reflect and explain how I was affected on a personal level.  As a new college graduate with a major in peace studies, the FCNL program and lobbying visits were an experience of deeper learning and reflection on peace and social change.

The Friday morning of the lobby visits began with worship sharing. I joined with other Friends for silent worship, a time of open hearts and minds before the day.  This was absolutely a time that I felt the need for worship and spiritual grounding and a time in which I felt that we held each other and the important issues of the day in the light. Then, I met up with Sue May and Judy Lumb for the Georgia lobby visits, and we went to meet with our Congress people.

First, we met with Todd Harmer, Military Legislative Assistant for Senator Saxby Chambliss.  While I observed and made notes, Sue and Judy explained the ask regarding Pentagon spending with their own personal stories that presented issues of education and climate change.  In the larger sense, the importance of a balanced budget and decreasing wasteful spending in every area was the concern that Harmer provided to us in response.

Next we met with Ryan Evans, Legislative Correspondent for Senator Johnny Isakson.  Upon presenting the issues with military spending again, Evans discussed Senator Isakson’s priority to have a sustainable and efficient government.  National security was a significant priority as well. In the meeting we also thanked her for Isakson’s support regarding the START treaty.

Then, we had a last visit for the day with Thomas Dorney, Legislative Assistant for Representative John Lewis.  In this case, Dorney spoke to the ask of cutting one trillion dollars in ten years from Pentagon spending by explaining that everybody takes a part of the issue, yet the spending isn’t necessarily considered as a whole to see the larger picture for such a cut.  A highly significant aspect of this as well was that in light of the Bush tax cuts, there was not a corresponding financial disincentive for going to war.  The idea was that American citizens would be more immediately opposed to war if the immediate effect of a tax increase was present.  Dorney expressed that John Lewis would agree with the position on military spending in our ask.  Finally, he also talked about other areas in need of attention, such as the establishing a greater connection between our priorities and values, the role of grassroots and community organizing, and working on forgiveness as a principle in the efforts for justice and peace.

After the third meeting, we concluded our lobbying visits for the day.  The program events and sessions previous to, and in preparation for, the lobbying visits, along with the actual visits, included issues on which to reflect and contemplate.  I was left to consider how I personally am affected and how these issues affect our nation and world.

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