How exactly does one call congress?
Part 1: before the call
It probably seems arbitrary when we, at Silent No More, keep shouting, “Call Congress!” as though it is just some thing of ease, like calling your best friend to talk about coffee. I am not, of course, trying to diminish this big thing which you are about to do. We just like to roll things out at a digestible pace. One of my own worst qualities is to suddenly blurt out every last bit of a thing I’ve thought of. By the end of that, I’ve created a beautiful picture of something totally worth the effort of thinking, of saying, of doing. Meanwhile, the people around me have no idea what just happened. This thing I do… this thing I wish to avoid.
Prepare for the phone call.
As we reach THE DAY, I have a feeling it’s time for us to talk about how this will happen when you do call. There are some things you should probably do before you pick up the phone. They aren’t overly complicated and likely wont take much time, but they are required. First, read the bill. If you find your eyes glazing over, we have written our own summary of the text in far fewer than 33 pages. Get familiar with this. You may be asked questions, so consider printing it out and adding your own notes. An important thing to remember about this: if you are asked a question you don’t know how to answer, say, “I don’t know!” Even better than that, write the question down, and ask where you can email the answer when you find it. People respond well to this sort of response.
Another very important thing you will need to do is decide why this matters. I don’t just mean why this matters to everyone. I mean why this matters to you personally. Do you have a story of when you were assaulted? Did you witness an assault? Did you lose a friend or family member to assault in their workplace? What fears do you have? Have you carried trauma over this? Secondary trauma?
This kind of soul searching might not be easy to do. Please don’t open yourself to pain that you have successfully locked away. Your inner search for what matters most is important, but if you prefer to not “go there”, consider instead maybe discussing how your employer falls should, how they have opportunity to improve but they don’t. Ask for help with this.
Who is your congressperson?
Next, there are two very important steps. First, find your congressperson and their contact information. Second, see if they have already weighed in on H.R. 1309.
Step 1: Find your representative.
House.gov has an easy to use tool at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. Let’s do a screenshot walk-through.
Now, you might be feeling eager. You might be thinking to yourself, “what if I want to call all of them? All of congress?” Well, here’s the thing: they like hearing from their voters. That would be a very long day of calling 434 congresspeople (one vacancy in the expected 435) only to have many if not all of them turn you away. I am definitely not saying don’t try, though. If that is where your heart is, go for it. For Call-In Day, though, our primary objective is to call those congresspeople we are constituents of.
So from that page your congressperson is on, you should see a link to their website. Dr. Harris in my screenshot there has his name hyperlinked and when I click that, I find myself on his site. Another thing you might try is to insert your congressperson’s last name into a house.gov address. For instance:
Other congresspeople might not have the same menu options as Dr. Harris has here, but I believe it is fairly common for them to have contact us forms, and separately listed addresses and phone numbers. Poke around these areas to find phone numbers, and jot those down.
Step 2: Determine whether your congressperson has already spoken up or supported this legislation.
This might be the easiest step in all of this, or it might be complicated. The reason why it matters, though, is because without knowing this, you don’t know what kind of phone call you’ll be making.
First, for the easy part. At the moment of this being published, H.R. 1309 has 191 cosponsors. Is your congressperson one of them?
(Cut & paste this link into your browser window if that link did not work: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1309/cosponsors.)
(I bet you’re wondering why you would call if they already appear on that list. Calling them still matters. Instead of saying, “Please support this bill!” you will be saying, “thank you for supporting this bill, but I was wondering if you could do one more thing for me.” Keep reading, fellow advocate. We’ll get to that in a bit.)
Organize your thoughts
Now that you’ve reached the point that you understand the bill well and you’ve decided why this matters to you, decide the words you would like to use. You can put them together in any way that feels right. Write it, type it, record yourself saying it, it doesn’t matter. Say the words out loud so they don’t just exist in your head. Know them as true.
I thought about writing a brief tutorial on elevator speeches, but then I realized there are plenty of websites that already do this, way better than I ever could. I’ll add some links at the bottom of this for those who really do want to know more about an effective elevator speech. The idea here, though, is that you need to start strong to get attention, share data to back up what you are saying, and end with a closer: “Will you support H.R. 1309? Will you cosponsor it?”
Deciding on what you will say is the final part of this three-part post. If you need any help whatsoever with wording, editing, finding inspiration, or anything of the like, you can contact us via email or for a quicker and more varied response, join our facebook group and receive a ton of responses from our 10,000-member community!
Links for more information:
The 30 Second Elevator Speech – From UC Davis
How to communicate effectively with legislators – From Animal Welfare Institute
How to Call your Member of Congress – From American Psychological Association
The elevator pitch – Also from APA, but this is from their Student Council
Advocacy 101: Talking with your Congressman – From ONE