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My First Advocacy Summit
The first day of the Advocacy Summit was my first day on IJM’s Government Relations team. My name is Clara Campbell, and I’ll be managing our online campaigns. I look forward to connecting with many of you in this digital space as we work together and speak on behalf of those trapped in slavery.
I think the word to describe this year’s Advocacy Summit would be “exhilarating.” It was incredible to see 250 of you (the largest group yet!) from all over the country gathered in Washington, DC, for two intense days of training and lobbying. We were certainly a diverse crowd—made up of people from different backgrounds, personalities and places—but we were strongly united around our common conviction: slavery is wrong, and our government should lead the fight to end it.
Day 1: Advocacy Training
Looking around the hotel ballroom where training day was held, I saw a flurry of excitement and energy. Some were happily greeting friends, while others were happily making new friends.
As the day began, Director of Advocacy Eileen Campbell asked all first-time attendees to raise their hands—and the response was striking! A majority of the room was lobbying for the first time. We commend everyone who participated for your courage, and we so appreciate all it takes to try something new like this!
Monday’s panels and sessions began, and it was evident that all in the room were deeply engaged in the process of preparing for a day of meetings on the Hill. Since I had never lobbied before, I was feeling a little anxious about the prospect of meeting with Senators, Representatives and their staff. What would I say? What could I expect? What if I didn’t know the answer to a question?
Happily, by the end of training day, all of these questions were fully addressed. While I had not suddenly transformed into an expert lobbyist, I was ready to tell my Members of Congress about what I thought was important, why I cared, and what I wanted them to do about it.
Day 2: Lobbying on the Hill
Tuesday was something to see! Along with IJM staff members, groups of intelligent, dedicated, passionate, and prepared advocates met with their elected representatives in the House and the Senate. They explained the facts of modern-day slavery to their Members of Congress and highlighted examples of successful anti-slavery models being implemented around the world. We asked that the U.S. government invest in these models and work with governments around the globe to eradicate slavery.
Together, we also emphasized the important work of the State Department Trafficking in Persons Office, and outlined the need for it to be upgraded to being a State Department Bureau. This has already been proposed in the House (HR 2283), and we hope our Senators will support Senator Blumenthal’s bill upon its introduction. Find out why this little bill is so important.
My day on the Hill turned out to be a real growth experience. Together with my husband and three women from the great state of New York, I went on four meetings around the Hill—the offices of two Representatives and our two Senators. Before our first meeting, our team used the talking points we’d been given in training to form a discussion plan, and we stuck to that plan for the rest of the day. It ensured that each of us had a chance to speak and gave us practice in saying our part, while also providing some structure to the meeting. After our fourth meeting, our team agreed that it had been a good day of interesting discussions. Because we were prepared, it had not been nearly as scary as we anticipated.
Empowered to Advocate
If you haven’t participated in an Advocacy Summit before, I want to encourage you to attend next year. Meeting with Members of Congress is not and should not be an opportunity relegated solely to the experienced professionals. Your voices and your experiences—polished or not—speak strongly to your elected representatives. You are an integral part to ensuring that our government supports policies and laws that protect freedom and relieve victims of injustice.
I’d like to end this by telling you about the scene at the end of the day on Tuesday. Everyone was tired from their hard work, but the feeling around the room was all excitement. Speaking to your representative about the issues that you think are important is truly empowering, and knowing that your efforts are crucial to a worthy cause makes the experience all the more meaningful.
To each of you who attended the Advocacy Summit: YOU inspire me.
To those who couldn’t join us this year: I truly hope to see you next year, right beside us, heading to Capitol Hill.