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This one is about: Writing to Congress - How to Make an Impact

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One of the very good things about living in the United States is that our government is based on a concept of "by the people, for the people" - meaning that the people count. And there are many ways we can make our voices heard - - one of them, we exercised only a week ago -- voting. Another is to communicate with your legislative representatives.

Our Congressmen are called "representatives" for a reason -- they are supposed to represent US - their constituency. But they can only do so when they know what we, the constituency, wants of them. And that is where letter-writing and letter writing campaigns come in.

Whenever there is an issue before the congress that affects us personally, we can and should write our congressman and urge him or her to vote in the way we want to see the bill go. But do they ever actually READ those letters??? Well -- someone does!!!

Congressmen have staff personnel whose job it is to read every bit of mail the congressman receives from his constituents. YES, your voice counts - and much more heavily than many people think. But for your letter to have the most impact, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Let's say, for instance, you want to write a letter in favor of the birth defects registration bill -- be sure to keep the following points in mind:

1. Always be concise. Keep your letter, if at all possible - to ONE page. One and a half, tops.

2. Name the bill, by name and by number - and by author if you know who that is. There are a LOT of bills on the floor at any given time. It's a whole lot easier to make your point, if the representative knows what you are talking about.

(Example: "I am writing to urge you to vote yes on House bill 1114, the Birth Defects Registration Act.")

3. Be personal. Tell them how this bill affects YOU or your child.

(Example: "I live in an area in which there was a larger than expected number of children born with birth defects. I want to know why, and a registry such as this one can help us to find those answers." or "there has never been a cleft in our families before, and yet my son has a cleft. There must be an answer to our questions. This sort of registry will give the researchers the kinds of information they need to go after those answers.")

4. Explain the impact over all.

(Example: "A cleft happens once in 700 births, and yet we very often do not know why it happens. And cleft is only the fourth most common birth defect. There are so many others - and three others that happen with a frequency greater than one in 700." or "with a nation-wide registry of this sort, research will be possible that will lead to decreasing the number of children born with birth defects each year.")

5. Be SPECIFIC as to what you want from your representative.

(Example: "Please vote in FAVOR of the Birth Defect Registration act." or "Please do all that you can to help this bill pass into law".)

6. Be sure your letter goes to the right person.

(Example: HR1114 is a federal act - therefore, should be sent to Washington. State laws, of course, should be sent to your State officials. It is surprising how often people don't stop to realize this, however. Also - when you know the committee members, CC your letter to all members, addressing it to the committee chair, PLUS send it to your own representative.)

7.  Always include your physical address. (not a PO Box). In this way, they determine constituency.

Therefore, the following sample letter would in fact have an impact on the representative who will receive it. Bear in mind, this sample letter is bare-bones simplicity at its best. There are many ways to approach the same subject.


A sample letter:

Dear Congressman XYZ,

I understand there is a bill currently in congress, the Birth Defects Registration Act (HR 1114), which will allow for a national registration of all children born with birth defects. I want to urge you to do all that you can to see that bill to a successful conclusion.

I am the mother of three children born with the birth defect, cleft lip and palate, so you can imagine that this act would be very near to my heart. In fact, one in 700 children are born with the same birth defect that my children have - and cleft is not even the most common birth anomaly. A registry such as that proposed would provide researchers with the kind of demographic data necessary to conduct studies that very well could see a significant decrease in the overall numbers of children born with birth defects of all kinds. A birth defect not only impacts heavily on a family and a child, but on the economy as well. This registry may have immeasurable long-term positive results.

Again, I want to urge you strongly to support the passage of HR1114, the Birth Defects Registration Act.

Thank you,

Joanne Green
my street address
Stockton, CA 95205-0153

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