To start off, if you are able, it is a good idea to identify one or two others who will work with you to help organize around the actions below, and especially to go to your meeting with you. However many folks have gone on their own in the past to great effect. Meet to create a timeline for actions and to break out responsibilities.
Overarching goals: Your goal is to engage your Congressional representative or staff in a dialogue regarding our common goal of a less violent, more peaceful world – focusing on the practical and effective work of peacebuilding. This means that regardless of your Congressperson’s position on many other topics, international and domestic, your issue is relevant to him or her. It is important to read his or her website and find common goals and values so that the two of you can connect. Each of us dreams of peace incessantly. Clarify with your team that no matter what your member of Congress or her or his staff says, you can seek to empathize with their perspectives, and ultimately regard them as your allies and partners. Aim to engage with them through a common inquiry: “How can we most effectively deal with violence and conflict, in ways that are uplifting and truly effective?”
For tips on setting up a meeting with an aide or your member of Congress, read below. Start working to schedule a meeting soon! If you can only meet with one, it’s probably best to target your member of the House of Representatives.
CREATE A COALITION OF SUPPORT FOR MEETING
Invite friends and family, local supporters, anyone who cares and works for the issues we are advocating for. And feel free to bring young people! College and high school youth have proven to be some of our most powerful spokespeople. Even the littlest child (along with pictures they’ve made that convey their message of peace!) can have a BIG impact.
Community leaders, including church leaders, heads of organizations, police department chiefs, and professionals working with proven methods that reduce youth violence and incarceration, are particularly strong allies to bring to these meetings, as well as parents and children. However, every person is important.
HOW TO SCHEDULE A CONGRESSIONAL MEETING:
You can meet with a Representative or an office aide either in Washington DC or in a local office. Very often you will meet with aides. That is normal and fine. These tips should be helpful.
BRUSH UP ON THE CONTENT!
It is important that we walk into meetings well prepared to speak as clearly and intelligently as possible about the issues and bills we are presenting.
Download relevant issue sheets, research and talking points from our Resources page – you can use these to learn and to print and bring to leave at the office.
SUGGESTED PREP BEFORE MEETING
BE THE PEACE!
Remember through the entire preparation process, team building (if any) and particularly the scheduling and meeting to hold yourself in the most peaceful manner possible. We want to embody the values and principles we are advocating for. Get support before hand if needed (maybe you are meeting with an office that is opposed to many of your values?). They are more likely to “hear” you and welcome you back if you can connect with them and be gracious. Speaking your truth doesn’t have to be done in anger. Anger, etc, most often alienates.
Meet early: Meet up 15-30 minutes early for every meeting to polish plans with your team. Also can be challenging to navigate the buildings.
OVERVIEW OF ‘THE TALK’
Everyone in the groups should briefly introduce themselves and say where they are from. (Name, city of residence, occupation is enough. Make yourselves real and open. Saying, “I am a teacher and mother of a ten-month-old baby,” is a good opening, so is “I’m a truck driver and grandpa,” etc.) Be sure to ask the aide about themselves, too! You can ask them about what brought them to this work, what their area of focus is, etc. They all got into this work because they care, give them space to share why they care, it will help get them into a heart space. It also provides you with valuable information about things they care about, and you can adjust your sharing accordingly.
Share a little bit about your group. Below is what we suggest saying to explain the legislative work of The Peace Alliance:
The Peace Alliance advocates for evidence-based legislation and policy that will enhance our capacity to reduce violence and build sustainable peace both domestically and internationally.
MAKE THE CASE
You might begin your meeting by thanking the member (or their staff member) for agreeing to meet with you and for having taken some position or stand that you support. This will set a positive tone.
Connecting issues to your district or state
Talk about how violence (domestic, school, gang) is affecting your community, congressional district, or state. If possible, provide one or two local statistics about crime/violence. If you can’t find any, national numbers are still very helpful. Talk about the impact on families of military members, the cost to taxpayers of war, and the current economic needs of your community that could be helped by saving millions of dollars with international peacebuilding efforts.
Highlight local programs that could be helped by DoP or other legislation we support.
At the end of the meeting, ask for your member of Congress to support the bill. Review the “request” ideas listed below, and ask for his or her own ideas as well. Ask your Congressperson what he or she would be willing to do to help you. Be specific. For example, you could ask a staffer, “Would you review this with the Congress(wo)man, and ask him or her if he or she would speak at a public event in [Hometown USA]? When should I check back with you on this?”
SAMPLE MEETING OUTLINE
Thank you/ Introductions – 5-6 minutes
Introduction to the Legislation – 2-3 minutes
Share your individual experiences and emphases.
Welcome feedback, questions, or comments from member of Congress and staff regarding the bill or issue.
Download Editable/Printable Congressional Meeting Outline .doc
Follow up is KEY to success. You must follow up promptly and cheerfully. Be persistent at each task and thank them for every bit of effort they invest in helping you, even just reading the bill.
Donate by Check
Some of our generous supporters prefer to mail checks to our office to donate to the work of The Peace Alliance. We are so grateful for all of your support.
If you prefer your donation be tax deductible and you want your donation to focus on the educational side of this work, please make checks payable to The Peace Alliance Educational Institute– the 501(c)(3) arm of The Peace Alliance. We will send you a letter for your taxes.
If you prefer your donation to be unrestricted in how it is applied, be it to educational programs, operational costs, or advocacy work and do not need it to be tax deductible, please make checks payable to The Peace Alliance. Thank you!
PO Box 320651
Fairfield, CT 06825