NFB Interns Experience Advocacy in DC and Maryland
As part of our NFB summer internship program, we had the pleasure of spending two weeks working with John Paré and the rest of the Advocacy and Policy department.
During this time, we really had a golden opportunity to see the grassroots nature of the Federation in action. We were put to work emailing our states' national representatives to request appointments, running through mock congressional meetings, and actually meeting with staff members of our representatives and taking the lead in explaining Aim High, ATAA, and the Marrakesh Treaty ourselves. We even put together the folders to hand off to our representatives, and while not nearly so numerous as the folders needed for our Washington Seminar, it was a fun experience.
This work goes a long way to help build the Federation. When we build support for our legislative agenda, we are showing up and making ourselves visible to members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
It is extremely difficult to improve lives for blind Americans or change what it means to be blind if we are not keeping up with how our nation's laws affect blind people. Continuing to read up on legislative issues and make an appearance on the Hill lets the world know, as in the words of Dr. Jernigan in his banquet address in 1979, "We are the blind and we are able to speak for ourselves. We know who we are and we will never go back."
In addition to our work in DC, we also participated in the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland's informational protest to protect secret ballots for disabled voters in the state of Maryland. We were tasked with brainstorming slogans and sign ideas, getting a feel for how a work plan is developed, making cold calls to dozens of local members to invite them to participate in the protest, and helping to make the action happen at the event by marching, chanting, marshalling, and passing out leaflets to the public. This was another prime opportunity to see our grassroots approach, and getting to take part in a protest this way was incredibly thrilling and only served to inspire us to do more to build the Federation.
These two weeks gave us the chance to boost our confidence in doing more of these activities in the future so that we may use these new experiences and skills to continue to build the Federation in our local affiliates. We believe everything went extremely well and we loved everything about the experience.
Even though we felt worn out at the end of the two weeks, it was worth every minute of it.