Although events of the 21st Annual National MS Society Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 5-7, 2012 are complete, and MS activists have visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill. We must continue the conversation with legislators and recognize MS activism continues year-round.
While activists can be on the frontline without traveling to DC, there is nothing quite like actually attending the Public Policy Conference. This was the first time I had been in the presence of so many MS activists (more than 325) since the last Walk MS I attended years ago in Reston, VA. The energy is indescribable.
Political commentators explained the current political climate in DC in this election year. We learned more about family caregivers and the Lifespan Respite Care Act and the need for increase funding for MS Research. We learned about health exchanges and talked with inspiring MS activists who are working in their communities to raise MS awareness. In preparation for next year, I asked 6-time conference attendee, Sarah Keitt, for her recommendations for people who would like to get more involved on the local, state, and federal levels.
- Contact the Government Relations Committee at the National MS Society and tell them you are interested.
- Find your chapter.
- Get involved in your state advocacy efforts and work closely with your chapter.
- Find out what’s going on at your state capital and learn about the issues.
- Jump in and volunteer anywhere you can, contacting legislators or visiting district offices.
- Take advantage of virtual advocacy opportunities through blogging, twitter, or email campaigns.
Jessica, a legislative correspondent in the office of US Representative Jim Moran (VA-8), shared that the office may receive as many as 400 emails in a day. Each email and phone call is logged so that the interests and concerns of constituents in the district are documented. Every email, phone call, letter, and visit count! The more personal and less generic your message, the more likely it will stand out.
One thing that came through last week is that activism is easy! And a couple of easy steps you can take right now are to follow @MSActivst on Twitter, sign up to receive blog posts and action alerts and connect with other activists.
Thank you to the National MS Society for hosting a wonderful conference. I look forward to seeing each of you there next year!