Taking the First Step

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Tracie Sullivan for COPD advocacy

Tracie Sullivan, Advocacy Coordinator at the COPD Foundation manages the COPD State Advocacy Program, a grassroots initiative that encourages everyone in the COPD community -- patients, caregivers, health care providers, and students -- to come together to lobby on behalf of the 30 million Americans living with the disease. Tracie talks about her experiences in community organizing and shares how you can become a COPD State Advocacy Captain.

I remember in my first advocacy job, my supervisor handing me a list of 50 state representatives, “Can you call all these elected officials today and ask them if they are going to vote for the Childcare Scholarship Bill and what their opinions are on this year’s state budget?” As I looked at the list, I could feel the sweat in my palms and my heart beat faster. I had never called an elected official before. I didn’t know what to expect- Would they be polite? Would they want to talk to me? What would they say?

I started by building a script. I wrote down an introductory sentence of what I was going to say and put a few bullet points of discussion topics I wanted to remember to talk about. As I dialed that first number and continued my calls throughout the day, I started to feel at ease. All 50 state representatives were polite and interested in hearing what I had to say about the topic at hand. We had great conversations, they asked questions, and it started my relationship with engaging with my elected officials.

From these conversations, I gathered some very important insights:

  • Local elected officials told me over and over that constituents never called them, that on average they received 5 calls a month total.
  • Local elected officials wanted to hear from their constituents! In my home state of New Hampshire, officials reflected that they would see over 1,000 pieces of legislation per year, and it was difficult for them to know which bills were most important to their community members.
  • Phone calls can provide you with a foundation to building a relationship with your elected official and can provide more in-depth conversations than an email can do.

Taking the first step and calling up your elected official can seem like an overwhelming process, but at the COPD Foundation, we will be there every step of the way to support you. We can help you find your elected official (local, state, or federal), to create a script, and we can support you through practice phone calls. Change can only happen when our voices are heard, and our elected officials know what issues are important to us. Call your elected official today and have a conversation with them about COPD.

Questions? E-mail Tracie Sullivan at tsullivan@copdfoundation.org for more information.

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