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Me, a lobbyist?

September 10, 2009

Having been raised Quaker for the latter half of my life, I had of course heard of FCNL. That said, I didn’t really know what it was about until Devin Helfrich started coming to Northern Yearly Meeting and talking to us about FCNL’s goals and strategies. This was probably 5 years ago or so. I remember he talked to us about cluster bombs — about how terrible they are and about how important it was to pass legislation banning their sale and seriously curbing their use.

More than the specific rhetoric about cluster bombs I remember the way he talked about FCNL as an organization. He said that there are lots of small organizations with varied and laudable goals. Some of these organizations get stretched too thin, reaching for change that isn’t realistically achievable. Devin said that FCNL considers its long-term goals, and then looks at the legislative opportunities at hand. Then it picks which issues to focus on; it goes for change that it can really make happen. And sticks with it. This stuck with me, this idea of pinpointing the areas in which FCNL, a very small lobby, has a chance of effecting real change and then following through.

As I went through college and started thinking about What Comes After, Devin mentioned the FCNL internship to me. I think I probably laughed — I couldn’t in a million years picture myself lobbying congresspeople. When I was a kid my parents had to make me call my friends for playdates — I hated calling people on the phone, especially people I wasn’t very, very close with (which is most of the world, when it comes down to it). I was very shy and talking to strangers stressed me out. Though I’ve grown out of that in many ways, the idea of me, a young, inexperienced, just-out-of-college, 5’4″ (yes, the height makes a difference) woman trying to convince big important Washington, DC congresspeople that they needed to pay attention to me (and in fact be swayed by the information I brought to them) terrified me. I’ll be honest with you, it still kind of does.

So how did I end up applying to FCNL? About a year ago my mom told me that when she has a really big, potentially life-changing decision to make, she thinks about who she wants to be, what life she wants to have, and which option will help her realize that. I want to be someone who not only cares about what goes on in the world, in the news, in congress, but who knows something about how that beast works. I want to be someone who feels empowered to tell my representatives what I think is important for them to tackle. I want to be someone who reads the news on a regular basis not only because I care about it, but because I understand it. And, it turns out, I want to be someone who can say that she talked to congresspeople even though it scared her.


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