By Rebecca Hyman
Last month, I attended my first Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill with the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. Many of my peers and colleagues had told me stories about getting lost in the halls of Congress and the treacherous walks across the hill in the scorching sun. But despite my fears, the day was a complete success, and once it was over I could not stop smiling. Here’s why:
- I experienced the power of storytelling. As a staff lead for the Illinois group, I spent the day listening to captivating stories about what had brought these dedicated champions to advocate for the United Nations in Washington D.C. Some told me about their parent’s heroic journeys to America and how proud they were of their bravery, while others shared experiences of growing up in North Korea or giving birth in sub-Saharan Africa. What all these stories had in common was the invaluable services the United Nations provides. This thoughtful storytelling was very effective at relaying this information to Congressional offices and encouraging them to continue supporting the UN.
- I learned to maneuver the Hill. This was a serious concern of mine, but I am happy to report that the maze of Capitol Hill can be conquered. Now that I know the “lay of the land” and understand how the Congressional buildings are organized, I would feel more comfortable going back. I would encourage everyone interested in advocacy to take a trip to the hill and get familiar with the layout.
- I saw the political process in action. One of the most exciting things about going to an Advocacy Day is seeing the political process at work. I met with multiple Congressional offices to discuss the importance of the UN, and even snagged a selfie with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) in front of the Supreme Court (see below).
- We weren’t the only ones. UNA-USA was not the only group advocating on the Hill that day; there were many other organizations wearing brightly colored t-shirts scattered across its many buildings. Even though we didn’t know what each of these groups was advocating for, it was encouraging to see politically active people raising their voices about issues they care about.
- We got results! The administration’s budget proposal included deep cuts to UN Funding, but thanks to champion activism and allies in Congress, both the House and Senate passed appropriations legislation at much higher levels than the Administration’s request. Having been on the hill and in these meetings only one week before, it is unbelievably gratifying to know that our advocacy made an impact.
After my first Advocacy Day, I feel so much more inspired to raise my voice for issues that matter to me. If you have read this blog and are thinking “Wow, I want to do that!” then I invite you to consider joining one of the UN Foundation’s advocacy initiatives, like UNA-USA or the Nothing But Nets campaign. Any advocacy action you take is a positive step toward creating a safer, healthier and better world.