A Call to Action—Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Thomas Jefferson is credited with having said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the MAJORITY WHO PARTICIPATE (my emphasis).” That makes perfect sense to me. Since I last discussed our legislative initiative of direct access in my July AT E-Newsletter, we have more than doubled the number of co-sponsors on this common-sense legislation to 37! That’s a good start, but it represents only about eight percent of the possible co-sponsors in the House (435 total).
While driving to an appointment for our daughter, Kelly, I was listening to our local NPR station as they interviewed individuals from The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, non-profit foundation whose goal is to help Congress and its members, “...meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry.” Their work, “...focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.” How perfect that NPR was discussing this just as I started to write this column!
The data from a recent survey of congressional staffers (individuals who work for the elected representative or member) conducted by the CMF provides us with some important information to enable us to be the “majority” voice on direct access. For example, the survey results indicated that although the Internet has made it easier for constituents to contact their elected officials’ office and has increased contact with the congressional offices, nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents felt that the Internet has diluted the quality of the constituents’ message. Bummer! You can guess why—since contact via the Internet is sooo easy, the important messages get lost in the “less important” ones so the SNR is poor—we know about poor SNR, not good. So, we’ve been pushing the Advocacy page from our Web site and while this is good—it’s clearly not enough. Also in the survey, the respondents (94 and 97 percent) reported that visits to the local/district office and the Washington office, respectively, have “some or a lot” of influence on an undecided member! That’s good hard data for all you evidence-based practitioners, researchers, and educators. Face-time, real in-person face-time. How do you do that? Call the district office or the Washington office and schedule a visit. Want help? Then contact our government relations staff to help you. Make a personal visit to the member’s office. Easy!
One more outcome from the CMF survey—content. When you send an e-mail from our online Legislation Action Center or when you send a letter via “snail mail,” you must personalize the form letter or write your own! Be specific, be brief, use the bill number (H.R.2140) and make the impact of direct access legislation understood by the staffer who reads it and the member who will be briefed on it. Tell them how direct access will have a positive and long-lasting influence on you or your patients. Additionally, have your patients, family, and friends send an email/postal letter telling how access to audiology care has impacted their lives. The stories are there—just get them to the elected officials. Personalize the content—that’s all it takes. So, now we know that personalization of content, face-to-face meetings, and personal, ongoing contact make the best impression on the members.
So I’m “throwing down the gauntlet.” Our current 37 co-sponsors came to understand and support direct access at a rate of approximately 12 per month since introduction of the bill, H.R.2140. This support occurred because of face to face meetings, relationship building, and making our majority voice heard. Our BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal)1 then, is 112 co-sponsors by the end of the 12th month, which would put us in the middle of the current 112th Congressional session. This is doable—with all 11,000+ of us pulling in the same direction. How? I’d like to have you join me in a little friendly competition. From October 1 until the end of December, we will track how many of you, by state, contact your elected representatives through the online Legislation Action Center, district office, or Washington/Capitol Hill visits (remember, we can help you facilitate these!) and snail mail. Your job is to make the contacts and let us know you have made the contact—especially let us know when you have patients and family and friends make contact in support of direct access. It is really that simple.
We will tally up the thousands of contacts that occur by state and report the outcome in all of our media outlets—the whole state will get the bragging rights for motivating and participating in “majority democracy” AND you’ll get the much-coveted “ribbon” at AudiologyNOW! in Boston that you can wear proudly and show off to your colleagues. You can even have your own “local” competitions within the state or at your practice site—wherever—just do it! Additionally, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference. Speaking of competition, the Student Academy of Audiology is holding a competition as well. The SAA chapters are challenged with making a YouTube video that promotes our National Audiology Awareness Month or National Protect Your Hearing Month for October. The winning video will be used in our public relations marketing campaigns. Putting audiology out front—that is the goal of these two competitions and we need you to be “all in” on these initiatives!
This is about mobilizing people—the number one best resource I know. We are in control. We are the MAJORITY WHO PARTICIPATES! Take the pledge and make the commitment. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” So get out there and enthuse!
1 Collins, James and Porras, Jerry (1996). Building Your Company's Vision.
Note: Numbers will be based on unique contacts: if one person emails their member of Congress 10 times, only one of those contacts will be counted in the total.