This July, six of our grassroots volunteers accompanied RESULTS staff to this years International Conference in Washington DC. This guest blog comes from one of the attendees -Ann Marie Pointer- who co-leads the Norwich group with her husband Mark.
What an adventure! Mark and I started off as Transatlantic virgins. The US was somewhere we might go eventually but as soon as word came out in the autumn about the IC I just knew I wanted to there and I’m so glad I made the effort. On a hot July morning six of us grassroots as well as Kat and Felix boarded the Virgin Atlantic ‘Lady Love’ at Heathrow and so it began.
A very excited sniffer dog at Dulles airport was our introduction to US security and Mark was very swiftly relieved of the apples in his luggage! We stepped out into the blazing early afternoon 34 degree heat and joined the heavy traffic into D.C.
What became very apparent the following day at conference was how much RESULTS is part of a huge international family. The friendliness of volunteers was amazing. You could not stand on your own for a moment without someone come up and say, ‘Hey, I’m Jim from Idaho’ or ‘Hi, Annie from Arkansas’.
The conference is full on. People are around from 8ish in the morning until early evening. Something I was not expecting was the emphasis on US poverty in addition to international poverty. On our lobby day with the Coastal Connecticut group it was pointed out at every one of our 7 meetings with senators or congress representatives that it was a disgrace that America was the richest country in the world yet one in four of its children went to bed hungry. When our NHS and 0.7% aid pledge was mentioned at conference it got a huge round of applause and my little heart swelled with pride for dear old Blighty.
Lobbying in the States is very different from Westminster. We were warned to wear suits. Fifteen or thirty minute appointments are made in advance and an agenda was tightly adhered to by our group. American politics is also very different. RESULTS volunteers will ask if there are any representatives or senators they can target for support or otherwise. They can ask representatives to put forward motions, something more difficult for us with MPs more tied to party lines and manifestos.
What I have taken away from the conference is to be more confident when approaching MPs or other decision makers on behalf of RESULTS UK. Americans really do have great social skills, they are not afraid to speak up with confidence for what they believe in.
To meet a Noble Prize winner routinely was another good reason to be at the conference. Professor Muhammad Yunus truly exemplifies everything he believes in – what a humble and inspiring human being he is.
What else will I remember from my Stateside trip? Automatic flushing toilets with saloon doors with big gaps you can see through, having to pay more than the food prices on display because tax still has to be added at the till – oh, and let’s not forget the ubiquitous disposable plates, cups and cutlery!
If you are thinking about going next year – DO! It was a great experience. I have come back even more committed to RESULTS . Oh and just one more thing, be prepared for lots of whoops , cheers and hollering. Americans really do get more excited about politics than we Brits do!