What I learned on my first Lobby day

Guest blog by JJ Green, member of Oregon Environmental Council’s Emerging Leaders Board

JJ joined OEC at a recent lobby day at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem. She shares key take-aways on what it meant for her to show up and talk to elected officials about the policies they’re building.

1)      Every voice has power.

Sometimes it’s the least polished person who is capable of transmitting the most honest appeal. I was nervous just talking to congressional staffers, but then I watched Jeremy Clark, a 12-year-old Oregonian, deliver powerful testimony at a packed public hearing. A kid with no vote and no traditional political sway lit up the faces of a dozen senators and hundreds of hearing attendees. He made the lobbyists squirm and the lawmakers listen.

2)      Engagement is cathartic.

Like Jeremy, I learned about climate change when I was just a school kid. I assumed that reading about something in an encyclopedia made it undeniable and that the benevolent “adults,” “the scientists,” “the legislators,” and “the president” would act and protect me and my peers. They didn’t. Decades later, the science is far more worrisome, and now “the adults” like me have to act urgently to protect the futures of kids without a vote like Jeremy. It’s stressful to carry that understanding. I traveled to Salem and I realized that finally talking about real issues and solutions proposed in real Senate and House bills with real people who can collectively force real action, got these worries off my chest in a real, effective way.

We each carry worries that burden us. When we realize that those worries can be alleviated by the passage or failure of a specific legislative actions, we have a path to lessen those worries. By expressing our informed opinions to those crafting and voting on these actions, we take our emotion and spark change. For me, this lightened that burden in a way that venting to friends, colleagues or social media never could. It’s like flexing a muscle you never knew you had. Voicing these opinions alongside people with similar beliefs but different experiences helps us realize we’re part of a broad, powerful community. It’s empowering to realize the collective strength we have when we show up.

3)      Voters outrank lobbyists.

I learned from a lobbyist that legislators care a lot more about one visit from a constituent than they do about one visit from a paid lobbyist. You have power to make those in power do what is right. Taking time to call, write and most powerfully, visit your legislator speaks loudly. America has a government of the people. Lobbyists and big business are only powerful when voters let them be. We need to be the people who hold them accountable. We need to pay attention and be heard. The best way to do that is to be informed and then go share your informed opinions with your congress people. Get to know them and ensure they know you’re watching. You’re their boss, and they need to know that the boss is paying attention.

Ultimately, I arrived in Salem not knowing what to expect. But, the organizations I joined (Oregon Environmental Council and the Coalition of Communities of Color) had an action plan prepared for me. I arrived, followed the plan, spoke from the heart, and walked away from my Salem visits feeling inspired, lifted, accomplished, accountable and part of the solution.

Sound like something you’d enjoy?
Then join me on March 23rd for another lobby day opportunity with Oregon Conservation Network and Oregon Environmental Council.


JJ Green is a member of Oregon Environmental Council’s Emerging Leaders Board. Serving as an advisory board, these entrepreneurs, strategists, community leaders and visionaries under the age of 40 have agreed to share their extraordinary skills to support the mission of Oregon Environmental Council. Meet the ELB.


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