Today’s special guest blog post comes from Brad Armstrong, a student at Utah State University and a member in the NRPA Young Professional Network. Brad’s post provides great tips and veteran insight into NRPA’s annual advocacy event, National Legislative Forum.
Experiences from a Student
Does it really make a difference?
I have been attending the NRPA Legislative Forum and midyear meetings for the past seven years. I reside in a very conservative or “red” state. It has always been a challenge to find any support and we never have any commitment from Utah’s Senators and Congressmen. The Republican majority from Utah does not see the value of or need to invest more federal dollars into initiatives that they believe should be state-directed efforts. Our lone Democratic Representative does understand the need for and value of these programs, but supports them from a distance. Utah does not have a champion supporter for any of what NRPA advocates for. In the past three years, lobbying has been even more difficult to bring up the economic or financial perspective of what NRPA values to be critical in providing for healthy lifestyles. It is true that the federal government wants to tighten its economic belt. It is true that NRPA needs to show the economic value of this legislation we lobby for through sound data and results even just for the request of committed support.
I have taken time out of my schedule with my own money to attend the Legislative Forum. I have found that my interests and passions lie along the lines of NRPA. I am committed to help move these initiatives forward in both the state and federal avenues. I have written papers and completed many hours of research on the Land and Water Conservation Fund with emphasis on the state-side assistance program in my schooling. I have become very involved with the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) efforts, especially here in Utah. We are working towards an annual NCLI week during the second week in June. We are creating a state-wide NCLI coalition to promote environmental education and literacy, and to provide opportunities to get the youth outdoors. My educational pursuits changed from just parks and recreation to parks, recreation, conservation, and sustainability as a direct result of attending the Legislative Forum.
Some tips I have learned from my experiences:
- Study out and understand in depth two issues that NRPA is advocating for. The critical issues are LWCF (state-side assistance), No Child Left inside, and the Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities initiatives. They may be in a different format, but essentially the same.
- Know the relationship between those issues you have studied and the needs of your state. Provide concrete data, personal and third-part experiences, and real examples about how these issues affect you and your community.
- Be on time and respect the office that Your Senator and/or Representative holds. The country views Congress as less than favorable with the partisan politics. This should not influence the respect of the office and the timely importance of NRPA’s message.
- Be concise and succinct with your delivery and be prepared to answer any questions they or their staff may have. Be able to commit to following up with any questions after your visit on a timely basis.
Does it really make a difference?
I say YES! You have to believe that it does make a difference.
Is it worth the effort of taking time out of your life to be there?
I say YES! It is our duty as citizens to voice what we believe is right.
We can influence those in power to understand that, although these initiatives may not be understood by all or favorable, they should listen, study, and evaluate them in order to make the best decision for their constituency possible.