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My day on the Hill with Tony Hale
Top photo: Tony Hale and some of the IJM crew at the beginning of our day.
True confession: I’ve never watched “Arrested Development.” (Huge pop culture FAIL, I know.) I'm not caught up on "Veep." So when I found out I was going to be accompanying Tony Hale around Capitol Hill for a day, I was worried the whole casual conversation thing was going to be a little awkward.
A recent study from WAMU looked at “Why Can’t Washingtonians Resist Asking Each Other What They Do For a Living?” I’ll leave the reasoning to them, but it is absolutely true: “What do you do?” is always the starting point for DC conversations. We’re all looking for our tribes, right? And in Washington, that can be a good way to find your people.
So I was nervous about kicking off the chatting with Tony. My number one go-to question was off the table. Let’s be real: it is weird to ask a celebrity what they do, since the whole point is that everyone knows. Even if I had asked him, his reply (award-winning actor, on HBO, the whole Hollywood thing, a new movie coming out, etc.) was going to be hard to follow. I have this awkward gif-like moment in my mind of me blurting out, “Yeah … same!”
Assuming I would have kept my cool (and that’s what we’re going to assume, since this is my blog post) and replied with what it is that I do honestly, I'd have said I manage advocacy and mobilization communications for International Justice Mission. I write a lot, am always behind the camera, and am occasionally funny but mostly by accident. There’s just a wee contrast there, since Tony’s job is to be in the spotlight, in front of the camera, and say hilarious things. Our worlds looked pretty far apart.
Above photo: Tony snaps a selfie with a staffer.
Something that has always struck me about advocacy is the diversity of the people who are drawn to it. This really shouldn’t be surprising, because in advocacy, we’re uniting—whoever we are, whatever we do, whatever we bring—around a cause.
“Did you know that today there are more people living in slavery than at any other time in history?”
“Would you like to use your voice to help end slavery?”
“Good! Me too.”
And that’s exactly how Tony and my conversation went. Just kidding, or mostly kidding. I did not and would not recommend starting off with a heavy slavery fact when someone is expecting a simple, “Hello.” But instead of the usual Washington question and being separated by a vast professional chasm, Tony and I—and the over 80 advocates from all over the U.S. who were with us on the Hill that day, asking members of Congress to support the End Modern Slavery Initiative—were brought together by what we were about. We were all about the end of modern-day slavery.
Above photo: the California team of advocates meet with Representative Bass.
This just in (from a new groundbreaking study, released by me via this blog post):
In Washington, DC, on the Hill, “What are you about?” may be the better way to find our people. Our jobs and our backgrounds aren’t the only tribal markers; what we are about, the “why” and less of the “what,” may be the more relevant question.
Above photo: a team of IJM Advocates gets ready to head out on the Hill.
I could go on to tell you all the stories, about the video cast we did in front of the Capitol, or how Tony remained gracious despite the extremely tight schedule of meetings, interviews, photoshoots, and more interviews—with selfies with excited staffers in between—that we put together for him. (Tony, if you read this, thanks for being a sport; I was just trying to help you empathize more deeply with Selina.)
But instead, I’ll leave you with an encouragement and a challenge.
Here's the encouragement (dessert before dinner): we live in a time when it is actually possible to truly end modern-day slavery within our lifetimes. We have the opportunity to be on the right side of history. We are about a worthy cause, and the movement is growing because people like you and me use our voices to mobilize our communities, and people like Tony use their voices to amplify the message.
Now for the meat of it, the challenge. We need to keep up our efforts, and stay the course. We need to see the End Modern Slavery Initiative made law, so that we can take the fight for freedom to the next level. And we must ignite a passion for ending slavery in our communities, because that is the fuel of the abolition movement.
Mobilize your community in the fight to end modern-day slavery.
For more about Tony, the End Modern Slavery Initiative, IJM and our day on the Hill:
The Hill – ‘Veep’ star lobbies to end human trafficking
Washington Post - Cause Celeb: Tony Hale lobbies on Capitol Hill to end modern slavery
RELEVANT – Tony Hale Wants to End Slavery
Washington Life – Access Pollywood: ‘Veep’ Star Tony Hale Works to End Modern Slavery
ABC7-WJLA “Good Morning Washington” – ‘Veep’ Premieres Sunday on HBO