Spring Lobby Weekend: A Peek inside FCNL
The first major interaction I had with FCNL was at Spring Lobby Weekend, our annual four-day conference that brings young adults to Washington DC to lobby their members of Congress. My experience at SLW profoundly shaped my view of FCNL and led me to where I am today- working as the Program Assistant for Human Rights and Civil Liberties.
In my last year at Penn State, I was faced with the question that all seniors must face: what next? As an International Politics major, politics and nonprofit work had always interested me, but my path forward still wasn’t clear. Then a Penn State alumna came back to speak to students about her work at a Quaker lobbying organization in Washington DC. FCNL’s ‘We Seeks’ resonated deeply with me. Working towards a just society that opposes Islamophobia and is open to immigrants is important to me personally, as I have many family members who are both immigrants and Muslim. I decided to apply for their fellowship program.
I also decided to attend Spring Lobby Weekend. The election of President Trump had shaken me, and I was determined to become more politically active. SLW’s chosen issues of protecting Medicaid and SNAP were particularly timely, as the first attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act was rearing its head in Congress. While I still wasn’t sure if FCNL would be the right fit for me long-term, I thought that this conference would be a great way to both make a difference on important policy and help me figure out what I wanted out of my career.
What I saw initially impressed me. It was clear that FCNL had worked hard to recruit a diverse group of young advocates for Spring Lobby Weekend. I remembered all the emails offering financial assistance to those who wanted to come to DC to advocate but felt they couldn’t afford to. And it was because FCNL had cultivated a diverse group of young advocates that something very interesting happened.
During one of the question and answer sessions, many people of color were standing up to ask tough questions: what was going to happen to my community if these Medicaid cuts happen? This is going to devastate my hometown, what do we do if these cuts go through? To many of the questioners, and to many other people in the audience, these questions were being inadequately answered by the panel. More people put their hands up and kept following up with the same questions. Several people chided the panel for not understanding the extent of their concerns, or at least appearing not to understand how sick and tired they were of hearing these non-answers. The members of the panel didn’t protest these responses. They listened to the speakers, absorbed what they were saying, and started responding in ways that better reflected their concerns.
It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to work for FCNL. The organization I had witnessed was not perfect- no organization is- but, it is an organization that is willing to sit in discomfort and learn necessary lessons from it. That is how we better ourselves, our work, and our methods. Since joining FCNL, I have tried to hold myself to this standard as well. I strive, as FCNL strives, to improve both my imperfect self and the world around me.
I knew I had participated in something big - a concerted and intentional effort to prevent a harmful policy from being enacted.
That weekend, I was one of over 400 young adults who visited a total of 165 offices, urging our members of Congress to oppose the American Health Care Act. This bill would have enacted steep cuts to Medicaid in an attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And, on March 24, the American Health Care Act was pulled from the floor with no support. While I can’t say this victory came down to my individual visit, or even the whole of Spring Lobby Weekend, I knew I had participated in something big- a concerted and intentional effort to prevent a harmful policy from being enacted.
This March, FCNL is once again bringing hundreds of young adults to DC to lift their voices for justice at just the right time. This year, we’re demanding moral action on immigration reform just as members of Congress are weighing consequential decisions that will affect millions of immigrants, their families, and their communities.
Spring Lobby Weekend was many things for me: an opportunity to get involved, a way to make a difference, a chance to learn, and an inspiration for my future career. What will it be for you?