Stormin’ the Capitol: Advocacy Day on the Hill

Advocacy Day 101

The day before our scheduled appointments on Capitol Hill, we went through an intense day of training. We found out that during the course of one year, more than 10,000 advocacy groups try to promote bills or increase funding for their causes.  During the training, we were told to tell our story and ask for support or co-sponsorship of House Bill 745: Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act.

Stormin’ the Hill

On Tuesday, March 31, we boarded buses to take us to Capitol Hill. As we reached the Capitol, our purple buses got lost in a sea of buses. There were several groups besides ours on the hill that day.

Many people don’t realize that Capitol Hill includes several buildings. There are three House buildings on one side of the U.S. Capitol and three Senate buildings on the other side. It’s a good thing I wore my walking shoes! It is a 20-minute walk from one side to the other. It seemed as if we were running back and forth across the Capitol steps all day long!

In the House (and the Senate)

We went to the House side first. The buildings seemed old and the architecture was beautiful. Some offices were so small that it was difficult to cram all eight of us into them. The House buildings were connected by an underground hallway. We ate lunch in the House of Representatives cafeteria. (The food was very good.)

The Senate buildings were more modern. They looked very sleek. When we were on one of the top floors, you could look down into the lobby. It seemed that there were miles and miles of glass and marble. The Senate buildings were also connected by an underground tunnel. Every once in a while a buzzer would ring. That was when there was a vote, a quorum call, or committee activities. It sounded like a loading dock!

We were told the day before that we would probably meet with the legislative health assistant for each representative. As we met with assistants on both the House side and the Senate side, the assistants were very interested in our stories. They asked good questions about pancreatic cancer. They all took notes to share with their bosses. They seemed very willing to listen. After all, we were the constituents.

We Shouted and They Listened

Besides those of us who stormed Capitol Hill, PANCAN had organized a National Call-In Day. Before Advocacy Day, there were just over 45 co-sponsors of the bill. After an intense day when more than 1,000 people called in to their senators and representatives to support our requests, there are now close to 100 co-sponsors of Bill HR745!

I Did Make a Difference!

I still don’t consider myself very political. But I do feel empowered that I could tell my story and make a difference. As our advocacy trainers stated, “You will be writing history just because you showed up!”

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