In my English courses I have students explore how to share their opinions in ways that make them more likely to be heard. We write to media outlets, individual reporters, and city, state, federal (and tribal if applicable) representatives. Students practice writing letters to the editor and strategies for making posts on social media. In the current political climate, people have a lot to say about what directly affects their lives, or the lives of those whom they care about. It’s more important than ever that we become effective communicators. In case you would like to participate in the discussions going on all around the country in various formats, I’m sharing some of the resources I use with my students and in my personal communications.
Contact your Reps:
Follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletters. State and local reps don’t have a massive Twitter following, contacting them there means it’s likely they’ll see what you write.
Looking up Statutes and Proposed Legislation in MN:
Writing to the Media:
- Understand the person to whom you are writing. Know their history; their votes; their position on issues. These sites are very helpful in determining an elected official’s history with an issue: Ballotpedia (search for your rep to find all their public statements on issues), VoteSmart (Find out who funds them, their previous votes and positions on issues)
- Keep it focused and relatively short. Most people don’t have time to read long letters.
- Keep it to a single issue. If you have something to say about multiple issues then write multiple letters or make multiple calls.
- Avoid using form letters. Some organizations will offer text for you to copy/paste or sign your name to. That doesn’t necessarily mean much to your representatives.
- Keep it personal. Focus on ways that you are personally connected to the issues.
- Be respectful.
- Spellcheck, proofread, then do it again. In social media posts especially, people will attack your grammar or spelling if they can. It allows them to focus on that instead of your ideas. The appearance of being uneducated increases the likelihood that someone will write it off or attack your writing.
- Build a small network who can help you strategize and bounce ideas off each other.
- Format your letter properly.
Once you’re comfortable with contacting your representatives in writing or if writing is not your preferred means of communication, talk to them on the phone, set up meetings to talk in person. You’d be surprised at how much progress you can make once you make a connection with them. Remember, they’re our servants, not our leaders.