5Days4Democracy: Wrap-Up

Why Democracy? –Citizenship– Protest–Advocacy– and Why Vote?

These are the topics we discussed this week, and what an incredible time to be talking about them! It’s no secret that the United States is living in tumultuous political times, full of discord, strong opinions, and heartfelt concern for how to protect our democracy and the principles on which our nation was founded.

I think many of us who were born and raised in the U.S. take democracy for granted. We can’t imagine any other way and believe that of course, we should have a say in the laws that govern and define us! As difficult as these political times have been, one good thing that has come from it is more and more people taking an interest in “politics” and the people we are electing to represent us. For years, much of the population has been complacent about voting, about government policies- believing “neither party is any good”, “no matter what I do, politicians are crooks.”

But difficult and volatile political times have caused many people to rise to the challenge of living in a democratic community. Feeling the risk to “life as we know it” has caused us to realize that important issues such as healthcare, welfare, social security, homelessness, poverty are not political issues- they are human issues that affect us all. Political awareness, activism, and plans to vote are on the rise among young people. According to a Tufts CIRCLE (Center for Information & Research on Civil Learning and Engagement) survey,

“Young people see 2020 as a time to exercise their potential power. Overall, 83% of those surveyed believe young people have the power to change the country, 60% say they feel they are part of a movement that will vote to express its views, and 79% of young people say the COVID-19 pandemic has helped them realize that politics impact their everyday lives.”

Tufts University Tisch College · CIRCLE
Source: CIRCLE/Tisch College 2020 Pre-Election Youth Poll “New Poll: Young People Energized for Unprecedented 2020 Election”, June 30, 2020.

I believe one good thing happening this election year is that everyone, young and old, are beginning to believe it’s never too late to advocate for what you believe in, to truly work towards the good of all people–for these are the things that make a great nation and a great democracy. Thank you to the City Club of Cleveland for giving us a chance to celebrate 5Days4Democracy.

November 3, 2020

5Days4Democracy: Advocacy

Welcome to day 4 of City Club Cleveland’s 5 Days For Democracy! I hope you’ve been enjoying the great content shared and have hopefully learned something new along the way. Today, as we welcome October, we celebrate advocacy!

What is advocacy? Advocacy is most simply defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. Read more about what advocacy means and the different types of advocacy (community advocacy vs. legal advocacy) in this article from the Philanthropy Journal. You may wonder- how is advocacy different from lobbying? Well, lobbying is a type of advocacy in which you advocate for a or against a specific legislation, but not all advocacy means lobbying!

What activities comprise advocacy work? There are *so many* ways that Americans of all ages can get involved in work to support their beliefs and views. Here are a few examples of advocacy work:

  • Organize: Organize a meeting or rally with others who share your views to mobilize for change! This could be coffee with your neighbors over Zoom, it doesn’t need to be a big meeting to make big change.
  • Educate Legislators: Provide information to legislators on issues you care about. Many non-profits help you to advocate by providing fact sheets or scripts to use when reaching out to legislators. Not sure who represents you? Find out using Ballotpedia.org here.
  • Research: We librarians know the importance of research! Find relevant resources that exhibit your story. Check out this list of institutes and think tanks put together by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. Find legislation that affects you and track it’s progress in Congress here at GovTrack.us .
  • Nonpartisan Voter Education: Inform your community on the issues you care about and how to vote for change! Nonpartisan groups like the League of Women Voters can help you to become an advocate and get involved.
  • Lobby: As a member of the general public, you can advocate for or against specific legislation through grassroots lobbying efforts! It is citizen participation in government and a great way to make your voice heard.

Feeling like you are already working hard as an advocate? The Ohio ACLU shared this list of useful tips on how to become a better advocate, including the importance of challenging our own biases when we look to become an advocate for others. The ACLU is another great resource for those looking to get involved, and you can check out the Ohio ACLU’s advocacy page here .

It might seem more challenging to be an advocate now amidst the pandemic, but according to the Institute for Free Speech, “Even when we’re stuck at home, the groups we join to support shared causes continue to give us a voice in Washington and our state capitals.” thanks in a large part to online advocacy! Use social media to organize virtual letter writing campaigns with friends or use Twitter to engage with public officials. You don’t need to leave your house to be an awesome advocate.

Image from the Institute for Free Speech.

Let’s Talk about Ohio

I don’t think there’s been anything really easy about this year so far and so I like to take a small win (or a rare 2020 big win!) whenever I can find one! I just finished reading Barnstorming Ohio To Understand America  by David Giffels and it’s definitely in my win column for this week!

Ohio. We are full of variety and contradictions. We are the 7th most populous state but 34th in total are; the top of the State gets incredibly cold with lots of snow and the lower half can be 10 to 20 degrees warmer with almost no snow; our economy is based on agriculture, industry, and innovative ideas; and there’s an incredible range of natural landscapes to explore. Ohioans have plenty to be proud about and issues we need to solve, but we are also an almost perfect cross-section of the U.S.A.

In Barnstorming Ohio, Mr. Giffels provides the current and historical context that helped me to understand exactly what it means to be seen as bellwether State for the Country. Having thoughtful conversations with the people who live in the “Five Ohios” (representing diverse voting communities) and offering great insights for what could be a larger, nation-wide conversation, this book was engaging, eye-opening, and easy-to-read. As we head into the 2020 General Election, you might also find this book worth checking out, and then we can chat!

(Small tangent -Did you know tomato juice is the official beverage of Ohio? Can we vote on that?)

—Stacey