Friday, June 17, 2016

Capitol Hill: What's in Your Lobby Bag?

Next week, I'm heading to Washington D.C. with my kids for the RESULTS International event that will include a full day of lobbying on global maternal and child health. (What better topic for "Anti-Poverty Mom," right?) As I was preparing, it dawned on me that I should document the things that I take with me for a day trip to Capitol Hill with my kids, so that other mom-advocates can be prepared for their first trip.

Advocates heading out for a whole day should pack their lobby bags with the same mentality a mom uses to pack a diaper bag. Think through the likely possibilities of what is likely to happen and what unfortunately may happen, then pack accordingly. Like a backpacking hiker, be conscious of weight since you have to carry it all day long. The trouble is that if you haven’t lobbied before, you don’t know what to bring. So, I’ll tell you what’s in mine. My bag is always packed and I’ve just added in things over the years after I’d wished I’d had them.

  • Over-the-shoulder messenger bag with plenty of pockets and the organization logo on the outside: Some organizations give you a plain tote for free and that’s cool. In some ways, the logo is more important than the pockets. It lets people know your cause whether you are walking in the door, trudging down long congressional corridors, or smiling in front of the Capitol dome for your photo post on social media. However, I am very partial to my UN Foundation Shot@Life tote because of all the cool zips and compartments. 

  • Notebook: To write down follow up actions from the meeting, important observations, names of all the staffers in the meeting, and miscellaneous reminders about the day
  • Two-pocket folders that hold a business card in the pocket: To hold information to leave behind with each office you meet with (copies of newspaper clippings, infographics, brochures, etc)
  • Business cards: Put one in each leave behind folder and keep some to hand out to every aide at the meeting as well as colleagues you meet during the conference. Don't have any? Order some cool ones from You deserve to have people know who you are!
  • Note cards: I write the name of the member of Congress, the room number, and aide’s name on a notecard attached to each folder, so I know exactly what I’m giving to whom and I can remove it just before the meeting. Sticky notes fall off in my bag…don’t trust them.
  • Paper clips: To hold the note card to the folder, hold together media or information sheets, hold other people’s business cards, pick simple locks, etc
  • Thank You cards: The aide or member of Congress you meet with should get a quick handwritten note simply thanking them for their time they spent meeting with you. Get the signature of all your fellow team members in your group before the meeting and if you’re clever, just hand the thank you to the receptionist on your way out.
  • Stamps: To mail your thank you note if you forget to be clever and hand it to the receptionist on your way out.
  • Phone charger cord: It is totally acceptable to charge your phone in an outlet during a meeting. Note: it is not acceptable to run back and interrupt their next meeting because you forgot your phone!
  • Picture of your children (or your children in person!): When explaining why you are an advocate, show them a picture of your family and say you’re making a better world for your kids. Or, just look at it for strength and resolution if you feel butterflies in your stomach.
  • Kleenex: If you’re a parent. You know this is useful.
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes: You will be shaking a lot of hands and you don’t know where they’ve been.
  • Band-Aids and Neosporin: Someone always gets a blister walking between the senate and house buildings with no nylons in the summer. They will revere your benevolence for giving them a Band-Aid and a dab of Neosporin. Or it might be you and you’ll just take care of it quietly by yourself.
  • Granola bar or pretzels: Cafeterias on Capitol Hill are sometimes too far for little ones to make it. Have a little snack packed in case you don’t get to one or if a meeting runs late and you have to skip lunch.
  • Cough drops/hard candy: For coughing fits...or keeping children's mouths busy.
  • 3-4 ball point pens: One will always run out when you need it. Another will be stolen by someone. See? You still have an extra!
  • Sharpie: At least once every conference, it seems like someone yells “Does anyone have a sharpie?” I don’t know why.
  • Scotch tape: About every third conference, it seems like someone yells “Does anyone have scotch tape??!!” and they always look more desperate than the Sharpie people. I think it’s usually related to making and posting directional signs in hallways because it’s not like anyone ever quickly wrapped up a present and gave it to me.
There you go! Those are my lobby bag basics. I've skipped cosmetic things like hair ties (which I use) and lipstick (which I don't), but this is enough to help a novice pack like a pro...or at least a mom! 

To my experienced mommy lobbyists out there...
what's in your lobby bag?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thank You for Keeping Me Safe

{NOTE: This blog has nothing to do with poverty nor advocacy nor motherhood. It's just something that is on my mind that I want to put out into the world where the people it is written for might see it today or someday. WARNING that the subject matter isn't for young readers. Links lead to websites with explicit descriptions of sexual assault.}

There are times I don't think to thank someone. There are times I shouldn't have to thank someone. But now, I think, it's time to give a heartfelt Thank You to a group of friends who I'm grateful to...the guys I knew in college.

The horrible case of Brock Allen Turner and the terrible assault he forced on a young woman at Stanford have been all over the internet. The letter from the victim is the most articulate and moving piece of testimony I've ever seen on the subject. When Vice President Joe Biden wrote his open letter to her, I thought, "Wow. What more could be said?" And then I realized that I have something I need to say. I need to say thank you.

If you are a guy and you knew me during the years I galavanted all over the campuses of the University of Wisconsin - Madison and the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and places of summers in-between, I'm talking to you. Some of you were classmates, co-workers, or friends. Some of you went on dates with me. Some of you asked me out, but were turned down. A few of you were boyfriends. One of you became my husband. To all of you, I'm truly grateful to you for being decent human beings who never forced me to do anything I didn't want to do. All of you, together, created an environment where I walked without fear through my late teens and 20's without coming to life-changing harm. I'm grateful to you.

"Can you believe he left in the middle of our date? I'm such 
a fox!" Yikes. What was going on with my hair??
Heck, I'm even grateful to the guy from Chemistry class who pretended to "remember something he had to do" in the middle of a first date. (He made a call from a PAY PHONE for crying out loud!...because there were no cell phones, of course, back in the middle ages) I was really hurt and disgusted at the time, but you know what? That was fine. He got me home and I could angrily eat cookies for the rest of the night if I wanted. He decided he wasn't that into me and that was that. I was safe. And that is cool. 
Madison, WI in winter

I'm not super-proud of all my behavior during those years. I wasn't a pillar of restraint. Boy, am I glad there was no social media back then! I recall was a particular morning after a snowy night of drinking. I don't actually remember all of the night. The last thing I recall is having fun in one of the many bars we frequented on State Street, but I had absolutely no memory of the hours between being there and the place I woke up. Where was I the next morning? In my bed. Fully clothed. With my favorite quilt tucked all around me. Wearing warm, fuzzy, colorful socks that I certainly hadn't been wearing for a night on the town. How did I feel? Well, besides hung over, I felt loved. I felt cared for. I felt really, really lucky.

Later on in our college years, I would realize that I was luckier than I ever imagined. You see, that #YesAllWomen hashtag that refers to all women either experiencing sexism, harassment, or misogyny themselves or knowing women who have experienced them? It's true. Yes. All. Women. In those years, two friends of mine were raped by men they knew well...or at least they thought they knew them well. No dark alleys. Both in their own apartments. I didn't know about it at the time. They were ashamed to admit it even to their girlfriends until much later. There were probably more in my life who I'll never know about.

One in five women on American college campuses experience some kind of sexual assault. We don't ever know who it will be, but YOU did your part by making sure it wasn't me. Not by doing anything particularly heroic like jumping off your bike to stop an attacker. You did it by doing the simple things. Going to a movie with me and just going home. Getting food with me, walking me back to my building, and saying goodnight. Studying with me and just studying with me. Making sure there was consent and respecting when there wasn't. And, yes, one of you fished out some fuzzy socks from my drawer because - my sock fairy told me later - my other socks got wet in the snow and my feet were cold. (My feet are always cold, even right now) 

Suddenly, those things do seem kind of heroic.

I smile when I see the careers you've built and the men you have become...
...a president of a financial company
...a railroad planning engineer
...a Disney executive
...a tech salesman 
...a desktop support specialist engineering consultant
...a principle engineer doing something so special you have to use a secret code to talk about it in China ("making thermometers"...uh huh, riiiight....)
...IT and Operations managers
...a swing dance instructor and a CPU verification something expert...ok, I'm kinda techie, but I'm never really gonna understand what you do company founders (and one of you is a laundromat king on top of that!), so many automotive engineers!!
...and last but not least...fathers

But these descriptions say nothing about your hearts and your characters. Your resumes will never reflect the thing I'm appreciating about you today.

So, whether we ever went on a date or not, thank you for the things you did and the things you didn't do. Isn't it amazing to think that you were a part of a tapestry of friendship that kept me - and countless other women - safe? If any one of you had been replaced by a Brock Allen Turner, my story would have been so very different.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, please feel good about yourself today. You did right by me. And I thank you.

You knew me as,
Cindy Chang-Yit