Time for Recess! (And That Means Town Halls!)

Now that summer is in full swing, just like for students, Congress has a long recess out of Washington. With this Congressional session wrapping up, representatives have flown out of D.C. and back to their home districts for a time to reset and reconnect to the constituents they represent. This means connecting in town hall meetings with people who care about diabetes advocacy and healthcare policy.

While back home and out of the clamor of the Capitol, representatives seek to hear about what we think about their decisions, and the direction we hope they will go in. So. How do we talk to them? How do we let them know what we think, to express our approval or disapproval?

The answer, town hall meetings, are traditions that stand as one of the most tangible examples of representation and democracy in our country.

Wait, Didn’t Those Happen in Colonial Times?

Yep. Starting before the United States was formed, town hall meetings have been evidence of ordinary citizens at work. Ordinary citizens — not only experienced politicians, wealthy individuals, interest groups, or insurance companies — talking directly to policy-makers about political decisions.

Town hall meetings are anything involving constituent participation. These meetings or events  have been hugely relevant throughout history. From the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (changed the course of history!) to town hall meetings discussing healthcare in 2009, town hall meetings and these local events involving citizen-to-representative conversation are vital to keep representatives accountable and democracy alive.

Showing up for Democracy

If you want to influence Congress in these town hall meetings, the first step is knowing where they are and how to access them. Just like everything else in the 21st century, the next town hall meeting for your district can usually be found online. If you can’t find out the next town hall meeting online, call your representative, politely introduce yourself as a constituent, and ask when the next town hall meeting will be held. You can find your representative and phone number here, through DPAC. You can also find out how involved your representative is in diabetes advocacy here.

Town hall meetings can be physical gatherings in a public location, online meetings, televised sessions with opportunities to submit questions, telephone call-ins, Google Hangout, or Twitter gatherings. The formats are endless. There are so many different ways for any and every type of person to be in contact with their representatives, convey their opinions in a way that is heard, and rock diabetes advocacy.

You’re Going to Show Up, GREAT!

Okay, so you’ve checked online or called your Congress rep and written down the town hall meeting in with pen on your calendar. You are excited and maybe a little bit nervous about talking to your representative personally about everything you have learned about diabetes health policy and diabetes advocacy. You want to do things like tell them to co-sponsor bill H.R. 3271 and pay attention to diabetes access.

What next?

Make time before the meeting starts to introduce yourself. Show up early to connect personally to your representative and others associated. Giving a face and personal story to the idea of a “constituent” is huge in reinforcing issues and making the policy-makers think about the lives impacted by each decision made in D.C.

bill-to-lawBring things you care about, want to say, and have been thinking about every time a new healthcare decision pops up on your newsfeed or on Facebook. Write down different points to talk about so that you vocalize everything you want to say, and effectively communicate as a diabetes advocate. Not sure what to talk about or how to help patients affected by diabetes? Check here in the “Act Now” section, and on the DPAC mobile app.

Bring friends who care about you or are affected by similar issues to make town hall meetings more comfortable. Spread out across the front of the room and give everybody important questions to ask. If the town hall meeting is in a different format, coordinate the timing and asking of questions beforehand.

Be persistent and polite in asking your questions and getting answers. Congresspeople are real humans who are often ridiculed, and will be much more open to answering politely-phrased questions. However, persistence is equally as important, and it is your representative’s job to answer your questions and ensure you are satisfied. It’s their job to represent you and your interests in the patient realm.

That’s all there is to it, folks. You have all the tools you need and are ready to rock diabetes advocacy one town hall meeting at a time.

Download the DPAC mobile app to find more tools for local advocacy, and find out when the next town hall meeting is today.