More action than talk, the annual meeting of the Quaker group, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), was largely a lobbying training event.
As a friend of the Friends, I attended the weekend event and witnessed these masters of democracy in action. After receiving their enthusiastic and optimistic preparation on the issue of diplomatic relations with Iran, I went off on appointments, with eight to ten other citizens from my home state of Tennessee, to meet with our elected representatives, and were met with open arms.
As conference speaker, Palmer Parker pointed out, “FCNL has been giving lobbying a good name for 70 years now.” I was also personally told, and totally convinced, that the offices love to meet with grass roots contingents from their districts.
Mike Gallagher, a professional staff member for Senator Bob Corker is himself on the Committee on Foreign Relations. Mike surprised me with his sincerity as he presented his honest concerns about the situation with Iran and then responded to, and took notes on, our arguments for diplomacy.
The 20 year staff member of Senator Lamar Alexander seemed similarly responsive, as did William Conner IV, aid to our House Rep, Steve Cohen.
Another newly trained lobbyist, like myself, told me, “I always thought lobbyists were paid and professional. I never knew anyone could do it!”
It’s FCNL’s religious mission to correct that misconception, and they’re doing it in record numbers these days!
In a time when theological belief systems (most churches) are losing membership, it’s interesting that this “faith through action” group is winning new converts among individuals and affiliated organizations at record numbers. In their largest annual meeting ever, “more than 430 Quakers and like-minded activists met in Washington, DC…” During the two days of lobbying, the FCNL friends (and friends of the friends, like me) participated in 210 lobby visits.
Is the world suddenly becoming more practical? As the “Practical Spirituality Examiner,” I’m watching with great interest people turn out in record numbers to events like this to learn about peaceful negotiations and other civilized answers to the world’s problems.
Besides the speech by the Israeli general, in the video above, many of the talks by distinguished authorities in attendance can be heard toward the bottom of this page.
I left the meeting personally encouraged and empowered, and more hopeful about our ability to right what’s wrong with the world than I probably have ever been in my life. I’ve heard that a stated goal of our military is to make the world safe for democracy. Yet, I think our last 13 years of involvement in Iraq has proven that using lethal force isn’t the way to accomplish this goal. However, this last weekend has convinced me that there is a very workable way to promote democracy!
Corporations have an undeniable influence on the decisions of our country. Still, their influence on the hearts of and minds of our elected officials can’t compare to the stories and personal appearances of real people in their offices. The beauty of that reality is that there are so many more real people than there are corporations!
FCNL is demonstrating how representative democracy is supposed to work! They’re quickly becoming an umbrella organization that is inspiring US citizens to get more involved with their communities and country. Also, in a world where democracy is challenged at every turn in every way, FCNL is providing a model for working with elected representatives that could easily be expanded or transplanted overseas to aspiring and developing democracies.
War can simply not do what peaceful negotiations can. The US military can simply not do what FCNL can. And I’m proud to be one of the friends who is working in a practical way “to make the world safe for democracy.”
Find out more about FCNL’s newly reaffirmed priorities here.