I would like to share the following article from the October 2008 issue of the The Vortex, our California Section newsletter. It highlights our local section experience where several members from the California Section visited the local District Office of Congressman George Miller to discuss K-12 STEM education.
Marinda Wu, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, California Section
Marinda Li Wu, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, California Section
On May 27th, Marinda Wu, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee (GAC) for the California Section led a team of local section scientists to meet with the District Director, Barb Johnson, at the Concord, CA district office of Congressman George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor to discuss needs in K-12 science education and related issues. The CA Section team consisted of Dr. Bryan Balazs, Chair of SOCED (Society Committee on Education) for national ACS and our local Educational Grants Committee Chair; Dr. Elaine Yamaguchi, our local Project SEED champion and Rep. Miller’s constituent; Dr. Deborah Scott, our local Women Chemists Committee Chair, and Dr. Marinda Wu, national ACS Board member and GAC Chair for the CA Section.
Earlier on May 16th, Drs. Wu and Scott had the thrill of meeting and talking with Congressman Miller at his Town Hall meeting at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA. Dr. Wu asked Rep. Miller about supporting K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education during the Q&A and was able to share the ACS literature from OLGA (Office of Legislative and Government Affairs) with Congressman Miller.
On the May 27th visit to Congressman Miller’s local district office, the District Director spent almost 90 minutes with our local ACS team discussing issues related to K-12 STEM education. We also shared California Section public outreach activities. Dr. Yamaguchi related her experiences with Project SEED to encourage underprivileged local high school students from underrepresented minorities to pursue science careers through summer research grants with mentors in industry and government labs. Dr. Scott shared her experiences as a concerned parent of an elementary school student and volunteering with hands-on science activities for local children. Dr. Balazs shared the work of SOCED on exploring virtual laboratory courses to supplement hands-on lab classes for chemistry students. Dr. Wu shared her personal experiences as both a concerned parent and scientist advocating the critical importance of funding STEM education and research to support the America Competes Act. Dr. Wu also shared her experiences with local Family Science Nights and invited Congressman Miller to attend this year’s event during National Chemistry Week at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord in Rep. Miller’s district. It would indeed be exciting if the busy Congressman is in town and able to accept this invitation from the California Section!
The District Director expressed interest in our local ACS activities and asked us to keep her informed in order to let Congressman Miller know of upcoming local ACS events. We thanked Congressman Miller and his District Director for their interest and support of K-12 STEM education both at the local and national levels as well as sharing with them information provided by ACS on the America Competes Initiative and related issues.
Thank you for sharing this experience. What is it like meeting a member of Congress? Are they approachable, easy to talk to, willing to listen, etc.
Thank you for the invitation to share.
Several years ago I was invited by ACS to visit with my congresswoman, Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), to talk about support for science. The ACS office sent staff member Tony Pitagno to Toledo for the meeting and we did get to spend some time with Ms. Kaptur. Because I am a faculty member of the University of Toledo and she has been extremely supportive of science projects on our campus, this was an easy "sell." Over the past several years she has been instrumental in bringing a greater federal connection to our campus, especially in agriculture and alternate energy - the latter is a major strength of our university, particularly in solar cells.
Last fall Brad asked me to be a part of a "fly-in" to visit congress in DC. Fortunately, I am now serving a sabbatical in DC as a senior fellow at the National Council for Science and the Environment, so no flight was necessary! On November 17th about 10 LAN members from across the country met to receive training for our planning Hill visits the next day. Brad and his colleagues Ray Garant, Carl Maxwell and Caroline Gil participated in these sessions - with a shout out from OPA head Glenn Ruskin. We iewed the very useful video made by former Congressman Boehlert which dramatically showed the wrong and right way to make a visit. The next day we broke into teams of 4 or so members and 1 staff member to vist the offices of the House and/or Senate member for each of us. The visits had all been arranged by ACS, so there were no technical challenges to deal with. Before we arrived we divided up the talking points among us, based on our positions (academic or industrial) and experience (federal grant recipient, etc). The topic was the Green Chemistry bill that had passed the House but not the Senate. We had 6 visits scheduled, including in the office my representative Marcy Kaptur. In each case we spent about 30 minutes with a staffer, most of whom received us very warmly, they listened attentatively and asked appropriate questions, all of which were easy to answer. Most were not science experts, but one was a Science Fellow, so that visit was most rewarding. We were able to tie the legislation to the record of the member (e.g., has been supportive of environmental initiatives in the past). Interesting, we did not meet with any member of Congress directly, which is easier to do in your own district. But giving the message to the staff member is how much of business is done in this city.
Overall, although the thought of visiting congressional offices was a bit intimidating, even to a faculty member who teaches large lecture classes, the process was very smooth and comfortable - thanks to excellent preparation by ACS staff. My one suggestion for a future visit was to have received the briefing material a bit earlier in the process to help better prepare for the visit.
Councilor and Government Affairs Chair
Toledo Local Section
Thanks Andy and thank you for your suggestions.
I think the following post from the act4chemistry.org blog may fit nicely in this discussion thread. Let's discuss.
Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS recently wrote the an opinion column on scientist advocacy for the magazine Science. In particular he argues:
We should take up "glocal" science advocacy to complement the traditional approach. This strategy involves taking a global issue and making it meaningful to society at the local level. Scientists and citizen advocates should recruit their nonscience friends and neighbors to promote science funding to decision-makers. Recruiting efforts can be as simple as discussing science-related issues at dinner parties or as ambitious as meeting with community groups, school boards, or city council members. The appeal should be locally focused for two important reasons: Policy-makers often seem to listen better in their home districts, where they are less distracted by the press of life on Capitol Hill; and they need to see clearly that science funding is not only a national but a local issue for all their constitutents, not just those who are scientists.
What do you think? Would you be willing to tell the story of science/chemistry at a local level?
Below is a recent success story from Delaware ACS GAC visits to Sentor Thomas R. Carper, Senator Ted Kaufman, and Congressman Michael N. Castle during the last two weeks of February 2009. This is the first time that our GAC has visited all three members of Delaware's Congressional delegration in person in the same month! I've attached photos from our visits as well.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about our visit...
Delaware ACS Government Affairs Committee Meets with Senator Carper, Senator Kaufman, and Congressman Castle
John Gavenonis, Delaware Section Councilor
During the last two weeks of February, as part of the National ACS Contact Congress initiative, members of the Delaware ACS Government Affairs Committee (GAC) met with Delaware’s delegation to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The purpose of the meetings was to advocate ACS policy positions in four different areas: (1) Green Chemistry Research and Development Act, (2) global climate change, (3) U.S. patent reform, and (4) science education policy. More information about the Green Chemistry R&D Act can be found in the January 2009 edition of the Del-Chem Bulletin. Public policy statements describing ACS positions on global climate change, patent reform, and STEM education can be found at the ACS website (http://tinyurl.com/acspolicystatements) or by contacting John Gavenonis at email@example.com.
On Tuesday, February 17, John Gavenonis, Al Denio, Martha Hollomon, and Narmada Gunawardena met with Senator Ted Kaufman and his State Director, Mr. John DiEleuterio. While Senator Kaufman supports the idea of the Green Chemistry R&D Act, he suspects that further appropriations will be difficult during the 111th Congress because of the size of the stimulus package. Senator Kaufman believes that climate legislation similar to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act will be introduced, possibly by Senator Kerry. He indicated that President Obama and Secretary of Energy Chu are committed to the goals outlined in the Lieberman-Warner bill. Senator Kaufman supports STEM education, but once again believes that further appropriations will be difficult during the 111th Congress. Regarding patent reform, Senator Kaufman indicated that S.299 (A bill to establish a pilot program in certain United States district courts to encourage enhancement of expertise in patent cases among district judges) was introduced by Senator Arlen Specter and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Friday, February 20, John Gavenonis, Al Denio, Martha Hollomon, Narmada Gunawardena, and Sujata Bhatia met with Senator Thomas R. Carper, his New Castle County Regional Director Bonnie Wu, and his environmental legislative assistant Laura Haynes. Senator Carper’s staff will investigate why the Green Chemistry R&D Act was introduced to the Senate but never reported to committee. They will contact Delaware ACS with information as to why this legislation continues to die in the Senate. Senator Carper is currently the ranking Democrat behind chair Senator Barbara Boxer on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. One of his roles in EPW is to lead climate change legislation efforts. Senator Carper believes that legislation introduced during the 111th Congress will have a smaller scope than the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act introduced during the 110th Congress (S.2191), which should facilitate its approval by the Senate. Delaware ACS is pleased to report that Senator Carper will be the honorary host of a biomonitoring briefing organized by ACS and the Society of Toxicology as part of the ACS Science and the Congress Project. This policy briefing will take place on Friday, March 13 in Washington, D.C.
In addition to legislative items, Senator Carper and Delaware ACS representatives discussed the Senator’s interest in mentoring activities for children. The GAC described various Delaware ACS outreach activities, including the annual National Chemistry Week (NCW) Open House. Senator Carper indicated that the new Delaware Children’s Museum is an excellent venue for future NCW activities.
On Friday, February 27, John Gavenonis, Al Denio, and Martha Hollomon met with Congressman Michael N. Castle and his Staff Assistant Erin Innes. Delaware ACS members thanked Congressman Castle for his support of the Green Chemistry R&D Act during the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congresses. Congressman Castle indicated that he will likely support related legislation in the 111th Congress, but he will need to evaluate the specific bill before making a decision. Delaware ACS encouraged Congressman Castle to work with Congressman John Gingrey (R-GA) to cosponsor additional sustainability legislation. In addition, Delaware ACS asked Congressman Castle to support H.R.232 (Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Registry Act). This legislation provides for a national GHG registry that will collect reliable and accurate data to support energy security initiatives and GHG emission reduction strategies. Congressman Castle indicated that he will likely support H.R.232, but he is in the process of evaluating it with his legislative assistants.
The Delaware ACS Government Affairs Committee thanks Senator Carper, Senator Kaufman, and Congressman Castle, and their staff, for taking the time to review policy items of interest to ACS.