I spent an interesting day in DC on Wednesday, visiting a Department of Education official, a White House staffer, and two Senate staffers to talk about civic education in schools and (more broadly) about how to engage young people constructively in their communities. An ideal legislative vehicle would be the Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Learning Act of 2011, H.R.3464, which you should ask your Representative to support. But I wasn’t in the House, so my focus was broader than that bill. I was guided all day by very able lobbyists from Lewis-Burke.
Although I am far from a pro at this, it wasn’t my first experience. In fact, I was a registered federal lobbyist for Common Cause from 1991-3. As in the past, I was struck that federal staffers–and lobbyists who work for public interest causes–are remarkable people. Compared, for example, to run-of-the-mill academics, they master incredibly broad areas. I talked to Senate staffers on the HELP Committee: that’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. They are ready to talk knowledgeably and thoughtfully about the provisions in the education bill that relate to social studies (a few pages, costing basically no money), even though they also have to cover everything from AIDS research to Social Security. A big part of their secret is extremely hard work–and they don’t waste any time on self-promotion.