There were about fifty-one students and faculty members of WC, including President Jim Reynolds and wife Sue Reynolds, that went to D.C. March 22-25 to participate, being one of the largest and most enthusiastic groups present. Led by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Spring Lobby Weekend had students spend much time learning about the issue at hand, which was the use of drones and the desire to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Throughout the week, there were panel discussions between a variety of people affiliated with FCNL, all with different backgrounds, who shared opinions on the issue. The information was meant to prepare students to lobby members of Congress and Senate. There were simulations about how one would lobby, and it was all on the basis of “knowing your audience.” Taking time in each group to learn more about a specific Congress member was essential. Students not only were taught, but also interacted. Genesis Rocks, a WC freshman and political science major, shared, “I’m sure the fact that have I lobbied will set me apart from others when applying for internships, which is very important, I am most grateful for that. Spring Lobby Weekend really opened my eyes to a [new] topic that I can confidently explain to people.”
Regarding the AUMF, students were taught much information about the viewpoints of FCNL and the changes the organization wishes to see. As stated by Diane Randall, the Executive Secretary of FCNL, “Unless Congress acts, this sweeping law –the [AUMF] – will continue to be used to justify a U.S. policy based on permanent war.” Diane shared that the law “provides the legal underpinnings for drone strikes, detentions at Guantanamo Bay, government surveillance, and the war Afghanistan remains on the books,” which was among the information that students learned. Elizabeth Beavers, the head lobbyist against the AUMF at Spring Lobby Weekend, shared her advice to those who wish to continue lobbying in the future: “First of all, read. Read everything you can get your hands on that relates to the subject you are interested in, and especially be sure to read from totally opposite perspectives. You can’t be an effective lobbyist if you don’t understand all the different arguments being made. Second, figure out your ‘heart issue.’ Of all the important issues out there, which one captures you on an emotional, spiritual level? Lastly, figure out how to be both assertive and gracious.” Elizabeth encouraged that with these steps “You’ll be one of the most powerful lobbyists around.”
In between the sessions and the lobbying, students had free time to explore the city itself. There were no specific plans as far as visiting monuments, going on tours, and the like; this gave students freedom to go where they wished. This was especially a good plan for those who had previously gone to D.C., enabling them with the time to visit new places and become more familiar with D.C. With many monuments, and an enormous amount of historical and political places to visit, there is never a loss for places to visit. It is a great experience for young minds, and a beneficial way to connect with the world in which everyone participates. By the end, President Jim was so pleased, that he said that he plans to make it a yearly trip for himself and his wife.
For those interested in taking the trip, contact Professor Michael Snarr, a political scientist and director of the trip for Wilmington College students at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each spring semester, he offers a class to prepare for the lobbying trip and begin the teaching process for the issues that will be presented at Spring Lobby Weekend. It is well worth the time, and is an amazing experience for all who attend.