I have noticed several Pipe Dream articles recently that touch on the importance of civic engagement, and in particular, the value of expressing one’s views to one’s elected officials. I admire the thought that went into these articles and the courage writers have to share their specific opinions on salient issues (e.g. Food Labels; Automation; Federal Funding). Without engaging with the details of each of those articles and the issues they tackle, I would like to reiterate the importance of engaging with contemporary issues, and elaborate on a campus experience that has been instrumental for boosting my political engagement this term.
We Have Issues meetings, sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement, are held twice weekly, and provide resources for finding out which elected officials represent you, learning strategies for contacting them, and staying on the beat about local, state and federal policy issues up for consideration. There are blank scripts to be filled in as one chooses. The conversation is open, and not intended to pressure anyone to accept or advocate for specific views. There is even a cell phone available for anyone to use.
Attending these meetings has helped build my confidence at sharing my opinions with my elected officials—something that I did not realize was actually pretty intimidating until I tried (I will hold your hand during a call, upon request). Indeed, as is appropriate, I have also learned that we do have issues, in many senses of the phrase—‘we’ being pretty much every person on the planet. Other meeting-goers have developed the same sentiment. But, since there is no Captain Planet, et al., running the global political show (I would totally vote for him, by the way), ‘we’ have to think of ourselves in somewhat more circumscribed terms. This is the beauty of knowing my elected officials at different levels of government, and their varying influence on policies and legislation that affect me and the world, and ‘we(s)’ that I am a part of. Another way of looking at this is in terms of a relationship: is there any person whose daily job is to represent you who you have never even spoken to, or engaged with? Don’t you think you should give them a call? Diving into a specific issue, regardless of one’s political orientation, is valuable. Engaging in a conversation with others about our issues and working to express them to our representatives builds solidarity among us, confidence within us, and bridges between intersecting issues that may be hidden from plain sight. I value We Have Issues highly, and encourage everyone to attend a meeting at least once.
Here are the days and times:
Meetings will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in UU-124, and from 1-2 p.m. Wednesdays, in UU-209. A cell phone will be available for use. For more information, email Jenn Dum at email@example.com with the subject line: We Have Issues.
4th-Year Ph.D Candidate, Department of Philosophy
We Have Issues Coordinator, Center for Civic Engagement