Since the late 1990s Wilmington College students have been going to Washington, D.C. to lobby for issues related to peace and justice. They work with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, established during World War II. Its headquarters are directly across the street from the Hart Senate Office building and about five blocks from the Capitol Building.
The Quaker organization describes itself as a “Lobby in the Public Interest” and employs 17 registered lobbyists, several college graduate interns and many others.
Several students from Wilmington College have served as year-long interns and one was employed for several years. The organization is by far the largest church lobby group as well as the largest peace lobby organization in our capital.
The Spring Lobby Weekend lasts for four days with one day committed to teaching lobby protocol, one day listening to experts on the current topic and one day visiting the offices of Congressional representatives.
This spring the focus of the lobby weekend was to “End Mass Incarceration” and two of the speakers were Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, both supporters of the sentencing reform legislation.
Last year the focus was on climate change. This year there were more than 400 young adults from 36 states who attended, including 60 from Wilmington College. Most of our students stay at the William Penn House, a Quaker hospitality center, which is five blocks from the Capitol Building.
Over the years WC has generally contributed the largest number of attendees.
There are many ways to influence policy decisions, but it is clear that face to face lobbying is best. During the final day of the weekend the attendees made more than 170 lobby visits. We recorded some of the Wilmington College student’s impressions of the experience.
Alisa, a junior said, “The trip affected my view of advocating for an issue in a positive light. I already knew that advocacy was important, but this trip made me act on my beliefs. It made advocacy feel more personal and purposeful.”
Taryn, a freshman said, “I learned that my voice really does matter. If you have knowledge or passion for an issue, you can voice that knowledge and make a difference which I think is a great aspect of our government.” These expressions of the impact of first-hand lobbying are not unusual; they are simply representative of those students who attended.