How to Be a Citizen Lobbyist
by Maggy Graham, NOOW Contributing Writer
Real change is difficult at the beginning, but gorgeous at the end. Change begins the moment you get the courage and step outside your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone. ― Roy T. Bennett
In the past couple of years, a number of us have had heart-to-heart talks with ourselves about how the heck we got into the pickle we are in, and how to get out of it. And some of us have zeroed in on the issue of medical freedom.
We are good citizens. We vote. We serve on jury duty. We write letters and emails. But now we know that isn’t enough. The question is, what CAN we do to be effective?
What if … the only way to make a difference is to step out of your comfort zone?
What if … Not On Our Watch made that a simple thing to do?
So we come to the key question.
What would it take to get you to engage personally with your state representative?
What if … citizen lobbying were an organized activity where you are given your talking points, where you pair up with a friend, where you visit your representative often, where you slowly but surely, bit by bit, with simple, short conversations, break through the fog, and get your representative to understand that without medical freedom, all freedoms are threatened?
When we aren’t actively engaging our representatives, person-to-person, we leave a void, and that void is filled by professional lobbyists, and Big Pharma in particular.
And we end up with medical tyranny.
The focus of Not On Our Watch is to get medical freedom laws passed and get faulty laws corrected. We are organizing to do this on a number of fronts. It will include emails and letters. But the real action needed right now is person-to-person engagement, always polite, with our state representatives and their assistants.
Many people feel naturally intimidated to walk into a district office and speak to the representative there or even their assistant. That is understandable, and easily overcome with simple training.
We are fortunate to have the guidance of two champions of freedom: R. Shawn McBride, a truly dedicated Florida freedom attorney, and Tom Oltorik, a Florida pilot who became an activist when he got a letter telling him that after 26 years as a commercial pilot, he was going to have to get an experimental shot to continue his job.
Much of what you will read here will be in their own words, which I have drawn from their presentations given to NOOW at the end of August of this year. Shawn and Tom are currently creating the medical freedom talking points for Florida’s 2023 legislative session. They will be providing those talking points to NOOW, which we will relay to our volunteers.
What can you do right now? Florida has 120 state representatives, so there are 120 districts. Find out what your district is, and locate your state representative’s district office. Get a business card, and get a journal to keep track of your visits. Be on the lookout for someone to pair up with.
Drill the talking points. As soon as we provide you with the talking points that Tom and Shawn are coming up with, get with a partner and drill what you are going to say. Drill how to make these points while staying positive and polite.
It’s just a simple conversation. We aren’t telling them what to do. We’re saying, “This is what we are concerned about and this is what we want to accomplish.” And we work together to get the legislation in place.
Here’s a great how-to video called “How to Talk to Legislators.” It’s the third one down on the following webpage: https://medicalfreedomact.org/videos/.
Visit as a team. Go, preferably as a team, to your district office at least once a month. Talk to them with your excellent manners about the need for medical freedom legislation. You don’t have to talk to the state representative. You can talk to their assistant. Make friends with them. Learn their name. Leave your business card. Leave the talking points.
Keep a journal. This enables you to establish continuity from visit to visit. They may not remember what you were talking about last time, but you will. If they’ve made a promise, you want to know if they’ve followed through. Be pleasantly persistent. “Any traction on that? What kind of response did you get from [rep name]? Do you have any questions? Just give me a call.” Leave your card every time. Log what was said, what was promised. Remember their names.
Always be polite, never confrontational. The goal is to reach an agreement, not to air grievances. Assume that they care about your views and would want medical freedom too if they knew what it meant. If you don’t get an audience even with an assistant, leave your information. Keep showing up. If they persist in shutting you out, let us know and we’ll pair you with someone in another district. And we’ll blog about the unresponsive ones.
Teach them in “layers.” Your legislator might absorb 10 or 15% of the information at a time. So repetition is very important. This is why you are making a series of visits. Your representatives have a thousand people asking for a thousand things. You can give them your talking points, but don’t expect them to go home and study the information. Your issue is just one of many. They need to hear about it over and over again, to build their layers of learning.
If you actually get to speak to the representative, be aware that you are getting “happy ears” from the politician. They want everyone smiling. They may say they are interested, and say that they will read what you have given them, and then “lose track” of your issue. You need to develop the relationship. Get it to the point where you start asking for accountability. “Are you sponsoring the bill? Did you support the bill? How did you vote on the bill?” Be polite as always.
When you are meeting with your representative, be sure and make the point that medical freedom is for their benefit and the benefit of their children and grandchildren, that they need to solve this so that personal choice will never be cancelled in the name of “public health.”
Coordination. The ideal scene is to have a point person in every single district, so every single legislator gets contacted at least on a monthly basis. Not On Our Watch will be appointing a “constituent engagement coordinator” who knows and assists the volunteers in all districts. Until that role is filled, reach out to email@example.com with your questions and concerns, and start lobbying as soon as you get the talking points from this blog.
We’re also looking for a network coordinator to find like-minded organizations, to share resources and coordinate messaging.
County Delegation Meetings. There will be a delegation meeting in your county as the 2023 Florida legislative session approaches. This is a next-level opportunity for those who aren’t petrified of speaking in public. Your representatives will be sitting in a room and open to public comment. You will be able to address them for three minutes. Stay afterwards and talk to them. This may be the first time you actually can talk to them. Again, be extremely polite, know what you are going to say, and make your point. Keep your notes in your journal. You are building a relationship.
Committee Meetings. You can also go to Tallahassee and attend committee meetings. Make eye contact with your representative. Approach them afterwards and have an informal chat. Come completely prepared. Come with a friend. Drill what you are going to say beforehand.
What is our vision? The vision is that each year, when the state legislative session reconvenes, all 120 representatives have been exposed repeatedly to a coherent and memorable message about medical freedoms in Florida, and about the specific statutes now on the books that threaten those freedoms.
Keep in mind that even though legislators get big contributions from lobbyists, those aren’t votes. We can show them, with the volume of our visits over the state, that medical freedom is a critically important issue. The fear of losing our votes will help keep them honest. Some will even do bit of soul searching and realize that we’re right—and that it isn’t even complicated.
Join us in this game of engagement with our legislators. We’re in it for the long haul until we have the laws in place to stop the kind of medical tyranny that was triggered back in 2020 by the magic words “public health emergency.”
We do have visionary leaders in our current governor and surgeon general who are working very hard to restore some balance and sanity. It is our job to support them. And it is our job, in particular, to help more and more representatives come to understand and support the laws that will protect our medical freedom for generations to come.
Change begins at the end of your comfort zone. Ready for change? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.