Thursday, July 27, 2017

No Magnet This Year--Storytelling, Advocacy and My Kids

"I don't want a magnet this year when we go to D.C.," Wade informed me before we left for the first part of our road trip. 

"Okay, why not?," I asked.

"Because I don't want President Trump on a magnet on our fridge," he said. 

I silently agreed. 

"Maybe we can get a different souvenir this year, maybe a magnet with a picture of the Lincoln Memorial or heck maybe a Nationals hat," I suggested. "Hopefully there will be a magnet with a new president added in 2020 that we want to get."


Last year I took the kids to D.C. to a rally to call for more attention to and action on climate change. We also met with Senate staff. We had talking points. We took pictures in front of the White House. We listened to the Hamilton soundtrack on the way there, and quoted it and sang it all over D.C. It was fun and interesting. I was grateful for the opportunity to show my kids that they have a voice and encourage them to use it.

On our way out of town, we stopped at a few more memorials and went to a gift shop and bought postcards, a parchment type paper with a copy of the Declaration of Independence on it and a magnet with all the presidents.  

This year was different in so many ways. First of all, Trump. Maybe that's the last of it all too. Instead of moving forward, D.C., with Trump at the helm, feels like it's moving backwards...denying climate change, the budget, healthcare, shaming people, all the tweeting, all the negativity and the bravado and the coldness and the corporate-ness and Jesus, all of it. There was no f&*$ing way I was getting a magnet.

But I did want to try and make a difference and connect with staffers and maybe a Senator or two and try to create change, or at least help stop the backward motion. I didn't just want to encourage my children to use their voice in their government and their community, I wanted to urge them to. And show them the way.

We went with a group that I am so proud and honored to be a part of, Moms Clean Air Force. They have taught me so much about climate science, activism, advocacy, how to be a part of it all and help make a difference. 

In the park beside the Capitol building, we attended a "Play-In." There were activities, speakers, musicians, prayers and hula hoops. There were Republicans, Democrats, women, men, mothers, grandmothers, teenagers and babies. And a drum line! 

I am not kidding when I tell you that marching with and dancing to a drum line was an actual dream of mine.
Dream realized. It was amazing.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse spoke to the crowd.

After the Play-In, we headed over to the senate office buildings. This wasn't our first rodeo, we felt prepared. We had practiced our talking points the night before in our hotel room. During our first meeting of the day, I turned to the kids and asked if they had anything to share. I sat back proudly watching and waiting for their rehearsed answers. They said nothing. They shrugged and quietly said something about how they want to protect the environment. Um, what? "Children, what about your prepared statements?," I said through a smile like a nervous stage mother. 

But then I remembered why we were there. We were there to tell our stories and tell our elected officials what matters to us and why it should matter to them. So, the kids started talking about how they love to fish. JT and Wade talked about the giant catfish they caught at their grandparents' cottage on a lake in Michigan. The senate staffer talked about how he liked to fish. That led to a discussion about protecting lakes from pollution. That led to talking about protecting the environment from corporations that pollute, and ultimately a conversation about climate change. 

After our first meeting, we were all more comfortable telling our story and asking people to work to protect the health of our lakes, our air and our future.

As we walked the halls from meeting to meeting, several people stopped us and thanked us for being there. "It really makes a difference for people to come to Washington and meet with us," one staffer told us. "It's a bubble here and it really helps when regular people like you guys come and talk to us and remind us why we are all here."

Our senator from Michigan, Senator Gary Peters, was gracious and kind. His staff has always been so great with my kids too. And Sen Peters happens to have a great record protecting the environment, helping to take action against climate change and working toward environmental justice in our area.

Our last meeting was with a U.S. Representative that probably has a magnet with Trump on his fridge. I was happy that his staffer agreed to meet with us, but also a little nervous.  As we sat down the kids starting talking to him about their love of fishing and sports. They all seemed very comfortable with each other. We spent the longest time in this office and actually enjoyed our time there. We talked about other issues like financial aid for college, public education and more. Even though I am not sure we changed his, or his boss's, mind about climate change, we connected. We found common ground. We didn't sit down with him and angrily shout at him about our agenda (sometimes in some places that is necessary however), instead we found a way to start building a relationship and start moving forward, not backward. A lesson I'm going to take back home with me, better than any souvenir. 

But we still didn't get a magnet. Maybe we'll get one in a few years.

I want them to know their voice matters and that they can have conversations and relationships with people that don't agree with them. Even if their fridge magnets are different.

I want them to know their health and their future is worth protecting.

1 comment:

  1. Haha I just cant believe just because your husband dont want the pic of trump to be sticked on you fridge in a form of magnet,you people are not going to buy souvenir magnet!!