A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Opinion

Make a difference; make a phone call

When Trump announced his plan to run for president, I laughed. I think a lot of us laughed. Who knew this orange reality TV star would become the person that represents our country? Being sixteen, election day came with dread, as I knew I had no effect on the fate of our country. Staying up until three in the morning, I watched the color red overwhelm the screen, and fear filled my mind.

Although it takes a few days (okay, months), there is no choice but to accept reality; Donald Trump is actually the President of the United States. While his title is indisputable, the decisions he and Congress are making are not. Whether it be the environment, education, or healthcare, we cannot stand by and watch important regulations and reforms be stripped away. Take action! Voting is not the only way to make your voice be heard. Contacting your representatives really does make a difference. Rather than spending your time typing out angry political rants to post on Facebook, use your anger and spirit to make an actual impact.

Although every method of contacting representatives is good, there are certainly some that make more of an impact than others. One of these is calling your representative. You would probably prefer to disregard this; talking on the phone is so awkward. It is much easier to have unlimited time to craft the perfect paragraph and email it to the representative. Calling on the phone allows the possibility of embarrassment: stumbling through your words, not knowing how to reply, saying the wrong thing. But at the same time, these mistakes make the conversation memorable. Calling gives a voice to the story you are telling and allows the representative you’re talking to connect on a more personal level.

Need more convincing to pick up the phone? A former Congress worker Emily Ellsworth sent out a thread of tweets on the best way to contact representatives. After an overwhelming response and a viral spread of her tweets, she expanded on her tips in a document named “Call the Halls”. She explains that phone calls have the most significant impact because of “their immediate call to action.” If someone calls the office, the people responding can’t just hang up or ignore them; they need to form a response. Ellsworth expands on the benefits, explaining that when citizens call “we begin tallying calls immediately when we received a large number on a specific topic.” So, while your one call may seem insignificant, it becomes part of something much bigger: something that has potential to make a difference.

Now time for proof. One of the most significant impacts citizens’ calls have made on a decision in Congress was in 2012 with the SOPA bill. The SOPA bill, or Stop Online Piracy Act, was (surprise) an attempt to combat online piracy. However, many companies like Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit were concerned that the regulations were too broad and could have many negative effects on the Internet, specifically noting it would most likely cause Youtube to shut down. In order to stop this bill from being passed, these websites launched a blackout campaign and urged their users to call their representatives in Congress. The result was incredible; calls began pouring in, and people also took to the streets to protest. Due to the clear upset from citizens, the bill lost some of its congressional backers and was tabled on January 20, 2012. The only way for this bill to get passed would be if it was heavily revised in committee.

Will every call you make have this effect? Probably not. But should you stop trying? Absolutely not. Living in a democracy gives you a huge list of freedoms and privileges, but it also gives you responsibilities. One of the most important being to take an active role in politics. Voting and calling your representatives are two wonderful opportunities to accomplish this. Find a topic you are passionate about and make a change. It will take time and there will be setbacks, but it will be worth it.

Want to get started right now? Here is the contact information for the house and senate member who represent Holland:

House: Bill Huizenga (Republican)

Washington, D.C. Office

Phone: (202) 225-4401

Grandville Office

Phone: (616) 570-0917  

Grand Haven Office

Phone: (616) 414-5516

 

Senate:  Debbie Stabenow (Democrat)

Washington DC Office

Phone: (202) 224-4822

Grand Rapids Office

Phone:  (616) 975-0052

 

Senate: Gary C. Peters (Democrat)

Phone: (202)-224-6221

 

 

State Senator: Arlan Meekhof  (Republican)

Phone: 517-373-6920

 

State Representative: Jim Lilly (Republican)

Phone: (517)-373-0838

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