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The Power of a Single Voice

January 28, 2020 Lauren Reliford NASPA

In the Spring of 2010, I was on the Hill with a group of over 700 heart disease and stroke survivors and caregivers to lobby around our issues and witnessed first-hand the power of a single voice. It has become fuel for my work and the motivation for me to get my degree in social work so I can continue to help empower the lived experience and elevate that voice at the table.

As the Policy and Advocacy Graduate Intern for NASPA Hill Days, I got to tap into that same grassroots spirit that made me fall in love with our participatory system all over again. I still feel electrified by the stories participants shared and the passion they exhibited for their students. It all felt familiar in the best way possible.

In my past work as a lobbyist, I witnessed first-hand how bringing the constituent voice to the table could lead to progress. I’ve seen bills get passed in a year and I’ve been part of advocacy efforts to finally get legislation moving that has lagged on the Hill for over a decade. The common denominator in both situations was the power of constituency. The power of a voice that would not let up. The power of a voice that refused to allow someone else to control their narrative.

“Representation matters,” may seem a fleeting phrase in today’s political environment, but it is a premise I wholeheartedly believe in. I can say this confidently, even after ten years as a health care policy lobbyist, oftentimes dealing with some of the most contentious issues our nation has faced.

When a group of individuals comes together to request constituent meetings, send letters, or engage in the political process, we come closer to getting policy and legislation right because it incorporates the voices and experiences of those who feel the pressure points immediately. Empowering those around us to take control of their narrative and tell their own story is a critical aspect of advocacy work. Throughout my time as an intern, I hope I helped participants achieve that same sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

 

Hear from More Hill Days Participants at #NASPA2020

If you are attending the 2020 NASPA Annual Conference and are interested in learning more about Hill Days and the ways in which advocacy skill development is transferable to your campus or institution, please consider attending the panel--NASPA Hill Days: Modeling Civic Engagement as Student Affairs Professionals, Tuesday, March 31 at 8 a.m.