Many people say to me, “I’m afraid to talk to a politician. I don’t know what to say.”
Yes, you do. You are an expert on your issue. If you are fighting for libraries, you have probably been in more of them, more times than the elected official you are trying to influence. You have seen what goes on when children’s eyes light up because of a storyteller. You are the front line trouper using your library every day. You see and live with the results of legislation that affects libraries. The same is true if you are fighting for less regulation of contractors, more bike trails, more scope of practice for optometrists or different regulations for private retirement plans.
You know more than your senator or representative about how you and others are affected. That’s the key to your power and all you need to talk about-your experience and expertise. Think about your elected officials. Many are lawyers. Some were journalists. Some have been Realtors. Some were homemakers. Whatever they were, they probably don’t understand your issue and how it impacts people unless you tell them.
This is particularly true for those elected officials who go to Washington and live in an increasingly isolated Never Never Land. They know it. When you ask them, they always say the one thing they miss most is the day-to-day contact with real people who can express the real needs of their community. Federal house and senate members from California in particular get more and more isolated because travel back and forth takes so much time. They and their families can’t help but become creatures of the place they live and work. You can fill their void with your stories. The same thing happens as elected officials spend more and more time in Sacramento. The result is that your elected official wants to hear from you and you have valuable information to give them.