Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Does "Next Year in Jerusalem" Mean for Me?

Every year, it is my honor to help my husband prepare and host a Passover Seder at our home. We invite my in-laws to observe the traditions of his family that have been kept for generations long before us. We come together to re-tell the Passover - the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt - to pass down the story of deliverance from generation to generation. The Seder is both a feast celebration and a solemn worship service laden with rich symbolism. The setting in a Jewish home instead of a public house of worship is particularly appealing to me as I see how much it means to my in-laws to gather in a familiar context that slightly changes every year as children grow, new recipes are discovered, and roles swap hands. 

I must admit, as a Christian who has married into this tradition, there is one part of the Seder script that has always left me wondering what meaning I can find in it for myself. At the end of the worship service, all join in saying "Next year in Jerusalem!" This puzzled me because, frankly, nobody at our table is planning to literally pack up this whole family show and cook a big meal in Jerusalem next year. I was never really sure what this phrase might mean for me...someone with a biological ancestry tracing back through many countries, but not through Isreal. Christians do share a love for the Holy Land, but not many of us are buying tickets to go there.

Khalid Alibaih, an artist from Doha, drew sketches
of Allan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh and posted them
on Twitter
This year, however, with desperate news coming out of Syria and the largest number of refugees in existence since World War II, we began to think more carefully about the Passover story and what it meant for a whole people to leave Egypt and oppression all at once. What does a celebration for the deliverance of the Hebrew people mean in the context of a world where the American president is trying to ban refugees of a certain religion from entering our borders? What should we be thinking of during this feast day of plenty when thousands starve aboard uncertain little boats, trying to flee chemical gas attacks? 
"What should we be thinking of during this feast day of plenty when thousands starve aboard uncertain little boats, trying to flee chemical gas attacks?"
With heavy hearts yearning for meaning and inspiration, we added a section to our family's haggadah (service script) to include excerpts from an addition that can be found in a post called Next Year in Jerusalem at Haggadot.com If you host next year (in Jerusalem or otherwise), please consider adding something similar. If not, please reflect on the words and consider how you might commit yourself to refugees living without safety or basic needs. 

"At the beginning of our Passover Seder, we are commanded to consider ourselves as though we, too, had gone out from Egypt. At the end of the seder, we say the words, "Next year in Jerusalem" to recognize that, just as redemption came for our ancestors, so, too, will redemption come for us in this generation. For those of us fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, we may understand these words to mean that the parts of us that feel adrift will find steady footing. However, for the world's 65 million displaced people and refugees, these words can be a literal message of hope that they will be able to rebuild their lives in a safe place.

Tonight, we honor the strength and resilience of refugees across the globe. We commit ourselves to ensuring that out country remains open to them, to supporting them as they rebuild their lives, and to championing their right for protection. Just as our own people now eat the bread of liberation, we pray that today's refugees will fulfill their dreams of rebuilding their lives in safety and freedom in the year to come.

Blessed are all those who yearn to be free.

Blessed are we who commit ourselves to their freedom.

Blessed are You, Adonai Our God, source of strength and liberation."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Strategic Acts of Kindness

Last week was “Random Acts of Kindness Week,” a time to encourage people to make life more pleasant for everyone. Organizers at randomactsofkindness.org encouraged actions like leaving positive notes around town and feeding meters for strangers. I would never argue with that notion. The world needs more kindness! But now that the week for random acts is over, I think it’s time to also embrace “strategic acts of kindness.”

Random acts of hatred have risen dramatically in the United States. Our country has seen repeated damage to Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats to Jewish community centers. The highest office of the U.S. has issued unconstitutional travel bans targeting Muslims. People of all kinds of skin tones other than the old Crayola crayon "flesh" color are shouted at to "Go home!" when they've lived in the U.S. their whole lives. Racism, sexism, and xenophobia are becoming increasingly normalized in political discussions and in everyday conversations. 

In the face of such a disturbing reality, we must take powerful actions to protect those who suffer disproportionately in this world because of religion, race, gender, or any number of factors. People of every political stripe are waking up and wanting to have a voice in the direction our country is heading. However, many regular folks don’t have the first idea about how to reach our nation’s decision makers.

That’s where strategic acts of kindness come in. In my former career as an engineer, I found random actions led to random results. Intentional strategy is needed to combat random acts of hatred or – even worse – systematic acts of oppression in our country and around the world.

Bread for the World volunteers handwrite letters to Congress
at church after a Sunday worship service.
What could this sort of organized love look like? Setting aside time each day to call members of Congress to voice your opinion. Holding a meeting with friends to write letters to elected officials. Submitting a letter to the editor. Sitting down with a senator or representative face to face to voice your opinion with respect. In fact, these are the very actions that U.S. representatives and senators consistently report as the most influential ways a constituent can sway their opinion.

If you don’t know how to do these things right now, that’s not a problem. Before I learned how to raise my voice, I was a stay-at-home mom who didn’t even know the names of my senators. I only knew that my community and my world allowed babies in poverty to suffer from poor health and I wanted to help. By getting involved with reputable advocacy organizations like RESULTS, I was able to receive training, support, and inspiration to become a skilled advocate. In time, I learned to effectively advise policy makers, guiding them towards decisions that improve access to education, health, and economic opportunity.

Richard Smiley and I meet with Senator Durbin about
microfinance to help the poorest families of the world.
What could we accomplish together if we could channel outrage and dissent into deliberate actions to change the future in positive ways? The possibilities are endless. Look at the massive problem of global poverty, widely regarded as unsolvable. Years of coordinated volunteer advocacy have pressured the U.S. to partner with other countries on global health, nutrition, and education programs. Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has been cut by more than half! With enough engaged citizens creating the political will to stand up for ourselves and people in need, there is no limit to the good we could do.

It is critical that we empower ourselves with the skills needed to speak out to the presidential administration and our members of Congress. Compassionate civic engagement is what our situation demands of us today. Together, we can navigate the combative ugliness of our time by rising above it. It’s time to move beyond the random. We can shape the future by committing to strategic acts of kindness.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Gaining Inspiration from #Malala

Today, I'm honored to post the writing of a guest blogger, Shruti, a good friend of my daughter. She wrote the following piece about Malala Yousafzai for her 7th grade class. I was moved by her last paragraph about how she has been inspired by Malala to help girls around the world to access education. She told me about her family trip to India, where she got to visit a school for girls who had previously been denied education by their families. Even though their families did not put value on education for girls, their community came together to create the school and put pressure on the their parents to let them come.

Shruti and the members of RESULTS St Louis visiting
the aide of U.S. Representative Ann Wagner
Shruti got a chance hear firsthand about how the students felt about their new opportunities. One student still cries every morning when she arrives because she is so grateful to be getting the education she thought was out of her reach. Another girl used to actually dream at night about how it would feel to hold a pencil in her hand...she never thought she would have that chance in real life! I was so moved by these stories that I asked her to tell these stories to an aide in the office of our U.S. representative. I'm so happy she came with our RESULTS group to speak out. She bravely told her story with sincerity and passion, helping us make the case for why we want our U.S. representative to fund the Global Partnership for Education at a level of $125 Million for fiscal year 2018.

To learn more about the value of educating girls and the life of Malala, please enjoy Shruti's essay...

A Girl With Knowledge : A Girl with Power

by Shruti, 7th grade
With every extra year of quality education, a girl earns 20% more as an adult. There are millions of girls around the world who don’t get to learn to read or write because they are forced to work around the house and get married early. Many others simply can’t afford school because of war or poverty in their countries. A few years ago, a young girl named Malala Yousafzai began working towards providing girls around the world with quality education..

Speaking Out

In 2009, Malala had started writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym. Most of her blog posts were about Malala’s opinion of the Taliban banning girls from going to school and destroying school buildings. A few months afterwards, she was featured in a New York Times documentary, and was revealed as the author of the BBC blog.


Malala, and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, began receiving death threats from the Taliban. Two years later, in 2011, Malala received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. Seeing her progress and recognizing the fact that Malala was gaining popularity, the Taliban  leaders  decided  to  kill her.  


On October 9, 2012, young education activist Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about girls’ right to education, while she rode her bus back home from school.
When Malala was shot, people all around the world rose to her defense, and began rallying for girls’ education with more enthusiasm than had ever been witnessed for this cause.

Sticking With Her Dream

Flash forward to early 2013 — Malala gave her first speech after recovery at the UN. Even after being shot, and going through a long recovery, Malala said that “Education is the only solution. Education First.”  Recently, on her eighteenth birthday, Malala opened a school in Lebanon for Syrian refugee girls.

How Many Girls Don’t Receive The Education They Need?

As stated on the Malala Fund website, 32 million girls eligible for elementary through middle school are still out of school around the world. School enrollment rates for girls have improved over the past ten years, yet more than 30 million girls between ages 9 and 15 are still out of school today. Most of them will never enter a classroom.
Another 98 million girls are missing out on secondary education. Millions more are missing out on the final years of secondary schooling but are not being counted. Girls are often under pressure to drop out of school, even if they have completed basic education.

The Benefits of A Quality Education

According to “Girls' education: A lifeline to development” found on UNICEF’s website, studies from a number of countries suggest that an additional year of schooling would increase a woman's future salary by about 15 %, compared with 11 % for a man.
Educated girls are more likely to avoid getting married as a child, and usually have fewer children than girls who don’t have access to education.

How Many Have We Actually Helped?

According to Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, former president of the International Centre for Research on Women, the education target has made an important difference in the lives of girls and women.
“Action and investments of dollars into women’s constraints and needs has increased. And that has resulted in some progress.” said Dr. Rao Gupta.invest-in-girls-info-5232014.png
“The girls who are left behind are the ones who are most in need – and these are poor girls, those who belong to minority populations within their countries and those who live in rural areas,” Dr. Rao Gupta added. “Unfortunately, they are the ones who still have not received the benefits of the various investments made in most countries around the world.”

What Can We Do To Help?

Even a small contribution would help us reach the point where every girl has access to good education. Hosting small fundraisers, donating towards the cause, or even rallying for it are ways that would be beneficial. Many non-profit organizations write letters to the governments of multiple developed countries, asking them to step in and try to improve the accessibility to education for girls around the world. Together, we can achieve our goal of providing every girl with a quality education.
                 We are so fortunate to receive education and get a chance to make our own future. Many children around the world never get that chance. I think about all those times I have complained about homework assignments. I think of all those times I have whined about studying for a test. And I realize what an important opportunity I have — I can work towards going to my dream college and I have a job I have always thought about having. After writing this article and reading about girls all around the world who dream of holding a pencil and a notebook, I know for sure that I will never forget to appreciate my education and will try my best to contribute towards girls’ education.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Anti-Poverty Mom Reads "Whoever You Are"

This is what the book would look like if you were
little and sitting on my lap.
The book "Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox has been on my mind lately and I want everyone to know about it. I don't have any pre-schoolers anymore, but this was always my Go-To book when I was asked to talk to tiny children about global poverty. It paints a universal picture of childhood while acknowledging the differences in the lives we live all over the world.

I believe that before we can tell them about how they are different from kids who don't have the basic resources they need to grow and thrive, we should tell them how we are the same. That is the way we will build empathy and caring in our youngest readers.

Mem Fox knows this well. She is a 70-year-old Australian writer of children's books and the author of some of our favorites in this house. "Time for Bed" was a staple for us. It was THE book that could get my babies to sleep on planes! A particularly popular one of hers (and one of Austrailia's official gifts to Prince George) is "Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes." She is a literacy specialist and has said about literacy: "Literacy has become the great focus of my life - it's my passion, my battle and my mission and my exhaustion." 

Fox was in the news recently because of an unfortunate recent incident in the in immigration line at the Los Angeles airport. She was detained and interrogated along with several other women. They shared the same room and were shouted at in a de-humanizing fashion for over an hour. The irony of the author of "Whoever You Are" having to endure this is almost too much for me to bear.

With all of this on my mind, I decided to record the first of what might become a series of readings. I want to spread the word about great books we can read to small ones to build big hearts. I want to model how parents should read to children: slowly, with loving expressions, showing the pictures, asking questions, with eye contact, with emotion and humor, etc.  Maybe I just miss reading to kids now? Or maybe I'm leaving a record of a memory for my own kids for when I'm not with them or they feel little enough for a story, but too big to ask for one.

So, here I am reading "Whoever You Are" by Mem Fox...

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Never Turn Down A Meeting With An Aide

My last meeting with an aide I with whom I had
lobbied for about 5 years. Then, I moved
and he changed jobs. Miss you, Dave!
There has been a lot of fuss lately over the inability of constituents to get face time with federal members of Congress (let's call them MOC's for short) and irritation at being passed off to talk to aides. As a long-time activist, I understand this frustration. When We the People have something to say about abuses of justice and rights, we want to see the person in charge...and we want to see him or her RIGHT NOW. We're Americans. It's what we do. 

At the same time, I sigh inwardly when novice activists demand our outrage because they walked into the local office (unannounced) and couldn't see their U.S. representative (who wasn't on the premises). In politics, there are lots of things to be outraged about, but if you want to increase your chances of changing an MOC's mind and gaining them as an ally, it's important to know what's realistic to expect from a congressional office.

When volunteer advocates first start out, we can get fired up with entitlement knowing Congress works for us and is paid by us. This is true. But it's also true that they have many demands on their time. Even with the most constituent-friendly representatives who like your issue, you probably won't get to meet with them more than twice a year, it generally takes several months to line up an in-person meeting, and it's easier to get a face-to-face meeting with them in Washington D.C...although it will usually only be about 15-20 minutes long. Senators are even harder to see.

I'd like share some basic truths I've seen about lobbying and life:
  • Like when you seek out your professor, your member of Congress is not sitting at her desk simply waiting to talk to you without an appointment.
  • Like when you take your kid to the orthodontist, if you show up 15 late to an appointment, you probably missed it entirely. 
  • Like when you take preschoolers to visit the firemen, your meeting might have to be delayed because of sudden, serious matters that you really do want him to attend and you may never get to know what that reason was.
  • Like when you need to talk to the PTO mom you snubbed at the potluck, your request for a meeting is not going to be top of her list if you've shown her public disrespect.
So, if there are understandable, human reasons that your member of Congress can't see you quickly, how can we still have our voices heard?

Enter the person with a reasonable compromise: The Congressional Aide.

I'm only including this meeting pic with Senator Blunt's aide
because President Truman's old office is so pretty and
my daughter's photo bomb is so funny!
NEVER turn down a meeting with an aide. Even though you might have the impression that they are just an "assistant," they can actually have more sway over your issues than most people think. I've now met more aides than I can count or even remember names for. Some have been joys to work with...others, less so. But I have found all of them - Republicans and Democrats - to be respectful, professional, and courteous when we offered them respect, professionalism, and courtesy ourselves.

An aide's job is to represent the senator or representative and hear your concerns when the boss is not available (which is most of the time). The role they play in your meeting will depend on their own years of experience in the office, their job description, and how much their boss trusts them. 
Pro tip: Yams on the table make a welcome addition to any
meeting about nutrition. 

What roles can aides play in your meeting?

They can be messengers: This is pretty much always the case. If they are taking a scheduled meeting with you, their job is to listen to your concerns and pass them on to the MOC with their recommendations. 

They can be issue experts: Most aides - especially in DC offices - have a particular job responsibility and therefore know more about issues that fall in that scope. I've known aides that have covered education issues their whole career and those that specialize in foreign affairs. Aides in the local district offices tend to be more "jacks of all trades" because the local offices are smaller, but I even know one local aide who is the point person for all her boss' activities in opposing sex trafficking within U.S. borders...that's pretty specific! Anyway, you want to make sure that you request to talk to the correct aide for your issue and be aware you might be talking to someone with deep knowledge of your topic.

They can be gatekeepers: They have quite a bit of influence with the scheduler in deciding who gets face time with the MOC or not. Sometimes this depends on your issue, but I really do think it has a lot to do with whether you present yourself as a rational human being or not. If you show up yelling curse words or wearing a chicken costume or something else meant to shame the office, you probably just blew your chance to have a productive back and forth conversation with your senator.
Building a relationship with Senator Durbin's aide (right) got
Richard Smiley and I tickets to a Congressional Gold Medal
ceremony for Muhammad Yunus because he knew our names
& that we supported microcredit lending.

They can be your champion: Here's a secret....aides don't always agree with their bosses on everything! I once worked for two years talking to a polite, but disinterested aide trying to get a certain Congressman to do anything at all on global poverty. Then, one day, that aide wasn't available and we ended up talking to his press secretary. I could've chosen to be offended and turn down the meeting, but I went in with my group and pitched our bill anyway. Turns out this aide was a young woman from a family who had adopted a family from Somalia. She showed us pictures of her Somalian siblings standing up at her wedding. She knew better than we did what the devastating affects of extreme poverty were to individuals. So, even though she wasn't the official issue expert, she presented our message to her boss and convinced him not only to sign the bill, but to publish an opinion piece in our local newspaper about it...one that I have no doubt that she wrote for him. And next time we asked for a face-to-face meeting? We got it.

Not only does this Chief of Staff have the authority
make decisions in the Congresswoman's absence, she
was willing to give my volunteers a tour of her super-full 
in-box & email to show why it's important we 
keep in touch with staffers regularly. 

They can be decision makers: Three times I have been surprised that I was sitting with aides who were actually empowered to grant my request WITHOUT consulting the member of Congress first. Holy cow. That's enough to make me treat everyone that way just in case! Aides who can do this are usually 1) Issue experts who know the MOC's position so well that they can anticipate which bills their boss will want to sign 2) Chiefs of Staff who take your meeting because they are interested in your issue or happen to be filling in for more junior aides for whatever reason.

They are ALWAYS human: They are always human beings worthy of your respect. Yes, they are paid by our taxes, but they're still people just doing their jobs. It is always worth taking the time to ask her what brought her to this line of work or ask how his day is going. They are often also constituents or former residents of your state, so it rarely takes very much small talk to find something you have in common. They are never deserving of unsolicited curse words and personal attacks. They don't have to be your best friend, but cultivating a friendly relationship with an aide might be the best thing you can do for your cause.

So, to recap...
What an aide can be: 
Messenger, Issue expert, Gatekeeper, Your Champion, Decision Maker, Human

What an aide isn't: 
Your Punching Bag

Do you have a story about how working with an aide created a positive outcome with you member of Congress?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Save Kids' Lives with #MarvelStudios #HeroActs

Saving kids lives? Marvel Super Heroes? Movie premiere contest? Let's GO!!!

From now until the end of February you can be a hero to kids around the world AND enter a contest to win a trip to the movie premiere of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"  All you have to do is upload a picture of yourself to MarvelStudiosHeroActs.com to win a chance for you and a friend (ME, presumably because I told you about this thing in the first place, yes?) to walk the red carpet at the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 world premiere. For every post, Marvel Studio will donate $5 (up to $1 million!!) to one of my favorite charities, Save the Children. Save the Children provides learning materials and relief to kids in need around the world.

Finally! A chance for me to put some of our costume race photos to good use! I mean if you bother to make your family wear these costumes in public once for a fundraiser to save lives with RESULTS, we can get a little more milage out of them again. Just sayin'.

But wait, there's more! Just for this week, they are donating $15 for every photo. PLUS, they will donate an extra $15 if you post to Facebook or Twitter. So, don't procrastinate on this one. And if you win...well, just remember who sent you there, okay? 

Would you prefer to hear all that same information said by the very handsome and articulate Chris Pratt on a video instead of typed by me? Yeah, me too... Here you go!

Note: I am no way compensated by Marvel Studios or Save the Children. I'm just fond of them both. Also, Chris Pratt. I'm fond of him as well.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Look to the Lorax

The Lorax is on his stump behind me looking
less orange than usual in Universal Studios
"Unless someone cares a whole awful lot

Nothing is going to get better, it's not" 

- The Lorax

The Lorax was not my favorite Dr. Seuss book as a kid and it wasn't a favorite for either of my daughters when they were small. We were all more Green Eggs and Ham girls. I was way more into that aggravating Sam-I-Am than the stubby environmentalist shouting into the wind. The Lorax is one of those children's books that is written just as much for adults than for kids. Couched within whimsical drawings of imaginary creations like barbaloots and truffula trees is a post-apocolyptic tale meant to shock us into action. First published the year I was born (1971), it's a story about the dangers of personal and corporate greed towards nature. Perhaps even as a child, I sensed there was something different about this book. That it was pointing out some "inconvenient truth" long before Al Gore would ever come along with his big projection screen. Yet as my girls and I lean in to activism and become more aware of how humanity's destructive nature hurts the environment and ourselves (those in poverty most), we've taken to emulating the Lorax every time we find a likely stump to stand on anywhere in the world. It's become a symbol of standing up against all odds for what is right. The Lorax is clever, but it's not happy. It's inspirational, but mostly because it manages to make you feel angry about injustice and responsible for solutions at the same time.
"Lorax-ing" in Indianapolis

Indeed, the Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) claims that the book came out of his own anger. "In The Lorax, I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might." The uncomfortable feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness are front and center in this story within a story. Those aren't really feelings we're used to being served up in books as children.

When the book opens, a boy in a desolate, polluted landscape gives an offering of odds-n-ends to hear the story of the lifted Lorax. In return, the Once-ler recounts the tale in which he himself is the villain. He relates how he came to a beautiful forest filled with incredible animals. He chose to use the unusual trees to manufacture "thneeds," garments which everyone wants, but nobody needs. Despite the protestations of the Lorax - who speaks for the trees and eventually all the woodland creatures - the Once-ler and his family create polluting factories and deplete the area of all the truffula trees. Only once everything is gone, spoiled, and utterly used up, do the Once-ler's family members leave and the Lorax stops fighting to lift himself away with only a sad, backward glance. 

"The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance...just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance and he lifted himself by the seat of his pants." 

It's harder than the Lorax would have you believe
 to lift yourself by the seat of your pants.
The Lorax leaves only a stump behind with the word "UNLESS" carved on it. The Once-ler himself is despondent and ruined in the current timeline, left only with the mystery of the stump, but suddenly realizes what the riddle means. "UNLESS someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing will is going to get better. It's not!" He gives the boy the last truffla seed, passing on the responsibility to the youngster to regrow a forest in hopes that the animals - and maybe even the Lorax himself - might return. And then...it just ends... We don't know what happens to The Lorax, The Once-ler, the boy, or a single barbaloot.

"Lorax-ing" in Busan, South Korea
Perhaps the biggest reason that I didn't like the book as a child AND the reason that it may be the greatest Seuss book in the library, is the ending. It's sad. It's ambiguous. When we realize that WE are the boy, we know it's up to us to write the ending ourselves. It puts the responsibility to write end of the story in our own hands and we are uncomfortable with it. It's not exactly the children's book we want, but I think it's the children's book we need...generation after generation.

What do you think about The Lorax?

Is there another children's book you came to appreciate later in life for it's social messaging?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This is What Democracy Looks Like

There is a simple and catchy chant haunting my waking thoughts. I heard it echo down Market Street and into Luther Ely Smith Square on the voices of thousands the day after Inauguration Day. One female voice would begin to shout, then women and men alike picked up the call and response chant over and over: “This is what democracy looks like!”

The Women’s March in Washington D.C., here in St. Louis, and in every major American city had the remarkable effect of propelling millions of women out from behind computer screens in their homes and into the streets to look each other in the eyes with common cause. Marchers, media, and members of Congress are now all asking the same questions: “What comes next? What will democracy look like for this group moving forward?”

As Former-President Obama urged in his Farewell Address, “If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.” In order for a new women’s movement to gain traction and start changing the world, the next step participants will have to take is to march back to their computers armed with newfound inspiration and local networks. Now is the time to do the next scary thing and learn new skills that lie firmly outside of most personal comfort zones. Now is the time to learn how to effectively advocate for all the things worth shouting about.

Late night organizing in a Washington D.C.
hotel. Super glamorous, yeah?
Truly effective advocacy work is hard and unglamorous. It requires making commitments and carving out time from already busy schedules. It means joining groups with people who probably don’t feel exactly the way you do about all things in life. Listening to them, learning from them, and making compromises is necessary to form strong and lasting teams. Organizing with respect and persistence is difficult, but ultimately so much more effective and satisfying than shouting into a cyber abyss alone. New organizers and advocates will need to remember the exhilaration from the march to sustain energy in the rigorous work of organizing and taking actions.

My own dream is for us – no matter where we stand politically – to capture the energy of this moment and transform it into actions that defend human rights and empower women to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and for their children. If we can launch an unprecedented movement of citizen advocacy and hard work to change policies, then it will be a true success for years to come.

My advice to activists is this: Keep in touch with your social media connections and commit to working together in real life. Find people working on the same issues that you are passionate about. Meet face-to-face with each other and connect with a reputable advocacy group to teach you the skills you need. Support each other to overcome inhibitions and get up to speed quickly, so you can train others on how to call Congress and write letters. Learn how to write letters to the editor. And then, finally, take that leap to sit down face to face with your members of Congress and their aides. Unlock your power as a citizen and inspire Congress to work together to change the world. Because this is what democracy looks like.

A meeting of constituents with U.S. Representative Jan Schakowksy