Articles From the July 1994 Unification News


Don't Just Sit There-Do Something! Civic Activism in your Hometown-What's a Mother to do?

by Edy Iversen

You're sitting at home with your four kids watching the local news at night, and you hear that your legislator has just voted to pass condoms out at your school. Or you pick up the newspaper, and read that your nice little community is planning to establish a gambling casino or X-rated bookstore down the street from where you live. Or you read an article or editorial in your newspaper that supports Joycelyn Elders because she wants to allow "lesbians in the girl scouts." You scream, shout and yell and get frustrated and wonder what this world is coming to. When you finally settle down, that is the time to take action.

What can you do as a mother with children or a father with very little time to affect political change in your community, state or nation? Believe it or not, you can change things and have a tremendous influence on your hometown, city, state or nation without even stepping out of your house.

You would be surprised by what one person with a big voice can do!

There are many different approaches to becoming politically active in your community, and you have to find the one that suits your character.

Are you a great letter writer?

Are you good at organizing other people?

Is your favorite pastime talking to friends on the phone?

Do you like going door to door?

Whatever your ability, you can use it to change things for the better.

Where do I begin?

1) First of all, make sure to register and vote in all local, state and national elections. By not registering to vote, it is impossible to change things politically or to have a voice in what's going on. Your legislators must listen to you if you are a registered voter? Become aware of who your representatives are by reading the newspaper and watching television. Usually there is a section in the newspaper which will tell you how your legislators voted on particular issues.

2) Writing letters to your legislators is one of the most powerful ways to be heard. All letters are read and usually answered by an aide from their office. You are their constituent. You put them in office and keep them in office. Find out what political district you are in by calling your local registrar of voters. Write a brief letter with a specific request or especially if time is of the essence.

3) Call your legislators. If you are concerned about a particular issue, call their local office and express your concern. Ask for the aide to that legislator who is dealing with that type of problem; e.g., "May I talk to the aide in charge of family legislation, or crime bills, etc.?"

4) Express your concern to that aide (e.g.: "I am very upset that Cong. Finkelmeyer voted in support of distributing condoms in the schools") and ask that he or she relate your concern to your legislator and kindly get back to you. Be polite, specific (e.g.: "I would like him to change his final vote on H.R. 128"), brief and to the point. Get the name of the person you talk with. Legislators are inundated with requests daily. Be grateful and appreciative. The kinder and more appreciative you are of their help and time, the more they will want to cooperate with you.

5) Don't give up! Sometimes you may have to call five or six times just to talk to an aide about some point. Follow up! Persistence pays. Follow up with a letter of gratitude for any help or response you get. Very rarely do legislators or aides get a thank-you note for their hard work. In the future they will want to deal with you again and will remember you for your kindness. If you do not get a response from the local office, call or write their office in Washington, D.C.

6) If your legislator still doesn't listen, write a letter to your local newspaper encouraging others to write to your legislator about that particular point. Many civically active people who share the same feelings you have, read the newspaper and will write or call their legislators if requested to do so. Newspaper letters must usually be under 200 words but can be very effective in stirring up the community and getting support for your viewpoint. For example:

Dear Editor:

Recently Congressman Finkelmeyer voted to distribute condoms in our school by supporting House Bill 128. Condoms are not the answer to solving AIDS, and illegitimate pregnancy, but rather abstinence education in the schools and greater parental responsibility, etc., etc. All concerned citizens should write to their legislator immediately and ask that he change his final vote.

Many politically active people read these letters and it will definitely stir up controversy over the issue. It is a simple and effective way for getting your voice to be heard and putting some pressure on the legislator's to respond.

7) Contact your parents, neighbors or friends about the issue and ask them to write or call their legislator. The more people you get to call or write, the more the legislator will have to respond. Start a petition and take it door to door. Many times you will find people who feel the same way and who are willing to help.

8) If you have the time, you can even contact local organizations and get their support. Call a few pastors or the local Christian Women's Club, etc., and ask them to start calling about the issue.

Even without stepping out of your home, you can be heard by your legislator and you can push him to vote your way. This can be done with all your local (mayor, city government), county, governor, state or U.S. representatives.

9) Join something! Even if it is just one day a month, join your local political club, P.T.A., Toastmasters, Christian Women's Organizations, etc. It is important that we be involved in our communities and see the needs and problems we have in order to solve them. Even a neighborhood babysitting co-op or a coffee klatsch in your own home once a week can help you to become aware of the problems in your community. 10) When your legislators come to speak at town meetings, go and visit them. Or attend school board meetings or local political meetings. Introduce yourself to your representatives and thank them for their hard work. Tell them you want to help them and encourage them when they do something good. They will never forget you for that.

Find your niche. Even doing a small thing is better than doing nothing. Pray for your legislators that God will guide them. Prayer is powerful and changes things.

You can influence political decisions in a positive way in your hometown or you can sit and complain. "But as we all know, all that it takes for evil to succeed, is for good men to do nothing."

So the next time you sit and scream at the TV, take your pen or telephone in hand and realize: "Your voice can make a difference."

Edy Iversen is a housewife, mother and political activist now living and working in her husband's hometown of Palm Coast, Florida. She and her husband Tom have worked together in politics for the last eight years in both South Dakota and Florida. They have successfully fought to get abstinence education mandated in public schools, the passage of Martin Luther King Day in her state, fought and won against the expansion of gambling in South Dakota, and most recently lobbied successfully to get the passage of HR#236, Parents Day, recognized by the legislators in her state.


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