Presents Award to Reality TV Pioneer Jonathan Murray
Washington, D.C., August 17 – California Congressman Brad Sherman spoke to RespectAbility Fellows, staff and supporters as they converged on Capitol Hill for the nonprofit’s annual summit, “From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond: The Future of Americans with Disabilities.”
As the congressman for California’s 30th congressional district, he opened his remarks by talking about Los Angeles as a city.
“It is in Los Angeles where dreams are put on the screen, and where the world’s culture is coming from. And that is a culture which has for far too long stigmatized those with disabilities, and one step at a time, that will change,” he said.
He went on to discuss the relationship between a constituent and their representative, focusing on what constituents ask of their representatives and the process of meeting the constituents’ needs.
When making requests of members of Congress, Sherman advised audience members to focus on a couple of key points: “The people you’re talking to want to know two things: No. 1, what do you want me to do? And No. 2, who else wants me to do it?”
“Understanding the problem is important. But thinking of what solution makes sense and creating a coalition in support of something particular is difficult,” he added.
Sherman mentioned that he has a daughter on the autism spectrum, and that the disability community’s issues are his issues as well.
In order to get through to a member of Congress, Sherman explained that a commitment is not only necessary but required. If a representative agrees to study the issue raised, the constituent must follow up with a phone call inquiring about the member’s position. Sherman also suggested asking when the member will address the issue.
To get the desired result from a member of Congress, a constituent must do three things:
First, do your homework. Come to the meeting with a sense of the organizations supporting a course of action that could solve your problem and present it to the member of Congress.
Second, ensure you are asking the member to take a bipartisan position. Ideally, present a petition signed by constituents across the political spectrum. Point out to the representative that other colleagues in his or her party are supporting this as well.
Third, show gratitude. If the member of Congress agrees to the request, ask everyone who signed the petition to thank that member. A thank you goes a long way.