The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 52

52
APRIL 2014
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
AFSA NEWS
AFSA ON THE HILL
Beyond the AFSAAdvocacy Day
BY JAVIER CUEBAS, DIRECTOR OF ADVOCACY
On Feb. 26, AFSA sent 25
Governing Board and profes-
sional staff members to
Congress as part of its first
annual Advocacy Day.
Building on the success of
our November congressional
networking reception, par-
ticipants visited 17 congres-
sional offices from both sides
of the aisle to discuss our
priority issues with legislative
staff.
We centered our efforts
on offices likely to be instru-
mental in helping us move
our agenda forward in such
areas as career development
and professional capacity,
overseas security and over-
seas comparability pay.
Contrary to popular
belief, the key to effective,
issue-driven campaigns and
congressional outreach is
to speak with those who are
in a position to help and are
eager to do so, not to visit
lots of offices or shake hands
with big names.
To help elected officials
and staffers better under-
stand how Foreign Service
employees and their fami-
lies carry-out diplomacy,
enhance national security
and create jobs at home, tar-
geted outreach is essential.
As the voice of the Foreign
Service, AFSA repeatedly
makes the case that we are a
resilient and unified con-
stituency capable of gaining
national attention and mobi-
lizing the American public in
our favor. Although engaging
policymakers at the congres-
sional level can be intimidat-
ing, we have learned that the
majority, if not all of the 535
members of Congress are
receptive to our overtures.
What legislators need to
see from any interest group
is value—for their constitu-
ents and their districts. For
those interested in com-
mercial issues, we need to
spotlight our members’ role
in facilitating trade and job
creation, so that they’ll see
a return on that investment.
For those who care about for-
eign assistance and human
rights, we need to remind
them about our members’
role in promoting develop-
ment, democracy and better
governance.
For those who wonder
how to ensure that our men
and women in uniform don’t
have to make the ultimate
sacrifice, we need to help
them understand that diplo-
macy saves and protects
lives. And that’s just a hand-
ful of relevant examples that
help us convey—as both a
labor union and professional
association—the most pow-
erful story that we can share
with a member of Congress:
your
story.
At the end of the day, the
most important thing you
need to know when dealing
with Congress is that your
elected officials work for you.
It is your taxpayer dollars
that pay their salaries. It is
also your vote, and the votes
of your relatives and friends,
that will either keep them in
office or remove them. But
if you want your member of
Congress to better under-
stand your position, and sup-
port the Foreign Service, we
must show them the value.
If there is one thing that
Advocacy Day and other
AFSA initiatives have done
successfully over the past
few months—it is to help
Capitol Hill better under-
stand your story and your
worth. We will continue those
efforts in the months and
years ahead.
n
AFSAHosts Hill Reception
AFSA presents the
FS Medallion to
Rep. Adam Schiff,
D. Calif., with
Executive Director
Ian Houston, AFSA
President Bob
Silverman, USAID
Vice President
Sharon Wayne
and State Vice
President Matthew
Asada.
AFSA’s reception
on the Hill draws
a large crowd
to the Capitol
Visitors Center
on Feb. 26.
Amb. Laura
Kennedy addresses
the guests, with
Sharon Wayne,
Ian Houston,
Bob Silverman
and Barbara
Stephenson.
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