I don't have all the answers, but I have a few ideas I can share with parents who are new to advocating. I included a list of suggestions at the end of my article and wanted to post them here as well.
All in all, as of the end of January 2016, 17 states have introduced some sort of vaccine legislation. From one parent to another, if you’re tippy toeing into advocating for your rights, you may find these suggestions helpful:
- Learn who your representatives are – do an internet search of your local/county, state, and federal representatives. That information, plus so much more, can also be found on the NVIC Advocacy portal.
- Start a conversation – talk to your reps! They won’t know what your thoughts are unless you contact them. Support the good bills and voice your concerns when the bad ones crop up.
- Get some face time in – my representative’s Chief of Staff said that it’s always good for parents to make calls and to send emails, but the face-to-face time, as difficult as it can be to schedule, is important, too. It might be more difficult to meet during the legislative session at the capitol, but if it’s not a pressing issue, constituents can make appointments when the session is over in the local district office.
- Begin to network with others – as you begin to read and research topics that you are passionate about, speak up about them. As your voice gets louder, you’ll likely run into other like-minded people. Depending on your comfort level, you can network online (like on Facebook groups). If your representatives host town hall meetings, try to attend. You’ll meet people there and can learn how to get involved in local-to-you activities.
- Pace yourself – reading, researching and responding to bills and keeping in touch with lawmakers takes time. Juggling that with my family’s every-day needs isn’t always easy. As much as I want to be there when bills are discussed, I cannot. On those days I can fight for my rights from a distance – from home. I can still do so much from home like write letters, send emails, and make phone calls.
- Stay the course – one of my favorite Winston Churchill quotes is, “Never, never, never give up.” The tough days will be tough, though, which is why I also like Saint John Paul the Great’s quote, “I plead with you--never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” On the days where you’re tired, where you feel like your voice isn’t being heard, and where your rights are seriously being threatened, stay strong and stay the course. When your voice is finally heard, when your rights have been fought and won, and when justice prevails, it will all be worth it.