I am an environmentalist, and I make no apologies for it. This past September, I was fortunate to be able to join with about 120 other citizen activists from around the country to lobby on behalf of protecting and enhancing the quality of our rivers, many of which are in serious jeopardy due to pollution and encroaching commercialization.
The lobbying experience was truly a remarkable adventure. In all my years of traveling throughout the United States, I had not yet been to Washington, D.C. I was utterly and completely fascinated with the historical atmosphere and the knowledge that I was “walking” in the steps of so many past and present statesmen and stateswomen who shaped our country. As I walked from one House and Senate office building to another, I thought about the behind-the-scenes struggles and debates that surely occurred on a daily basis in halls of these buildings.
My meetings with the legislative aides to Senator Lugar, Senator Bayh, and Representative Souder were scheduled by the sponsor of the event, American Rivers. I was told up front that I might only have a few minutes with the legislative aide, and our meeting could very well be conducted in the hallway because of the smallness of some of the offices. However, I was pleasantly surprised when each one of my three meetings occurred in a private office with the aide. I spent somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes with each individual who had arranged his or her schedule to accommodate my presentation.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned so much about the process of lobbying. While some paid lobbyists have given the word a negative connotation, citizen lobbying is a wonderful opportunity to participate in the political process by petitioning your government. It is a right you have been assured through the guarantees of the First Amendment. Although often times we think of the First Amendment in terms of free speech and press and freedom of religion, the clause which establishes your right to petition your government is tucked away at the end of the First Amendment.
The lobbying sessions are held every year, and, as long as I can manage to do so, I will be participating as a citizen lobbyist on behalf ofAmerican Rivers and its efforts to protect and preserve our rivers.