Three local youths talked about lobbying in Washington, D.C. at the recent annual meeting of Quakers on the Wilmington College campus.
Elise Snarr, Jordan Snarr and Chloe Mason explained to gathered members of the Wilmington Yearly Meeting their experiences at a four-day meeting lobbying their members of Congress concerning the migration crises at our southern border.
The group of six 2019 Wilmington High School attendees consisted of Adrienne Besser, Emma Schroeder, Carrie Robinson and Bessie Robinson, along with Chloe Mason and Jordan Snarr; Elise Snarr has been part of the experience several times, but not with the high school group.
The group was led by Wilmington City Schools social studies teacher Doug Cooper, who said he was elated with the experience for himself and his students.
The Spring Lobby is an annual event sponsored by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a Quaker lobby “in the public interest.”
The program was initiated in the late 1990s when Wilmington College students started attending the annual meeting of FCNL. It was soon realized that young people were natural lobbyists, and soon a Spring Lobby was established specifically for young adults (actually, college students).
It was not long until 40-50 Wilmington College students were attending the spring trip. Earlier this year there were over 500 in attendance from scores of colleges and universities.
The first day of the program is a general orientation and an opportunity to explore some of Washington. The second day is filled with experts speaking on the topic selected — usually a Congressional representatives and university scholars. (Each year has a different topic which is selected by the FCNL office.)
The third day is given over to discussing how Quakers approach lobbying and developing specific plans for visiting their Congressional offices – the students play a major role in this. It is a “soft approach” in that confrontation is avoided. The approach is educational and conciliatory.
Most meetings are with the staff of the Congressional offices who we find to be open and responsive – it is not unusual for staff members to disagree with those they represent.
On the fourth day the students visit both the offices of their representatives and their senators. It is quite a revelation for the students to find that they actually have such easy access to the halls of power.
The student participants this year came from 37 states and of the 500 attenders 346 were first-time attendees.
Although the program was established primarily for college students, some high schools have sent students. This was the first time that Wilmington High School sent a small group of students.
Cooper has already secured permission to take students to the Spring Lobby next March.