Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guest Commentary: Advocating on Capitol Hill

Jeffrey A. Nafash

Skepticism. Nervousness. Inferiority. These are all words that came to my mind when I prepared to venture to Washington, DC to advocate for an issue on Capitol Hill. Who am I? What do I know about issues? Why would my Senator or Representative want to hear what I have to say?

But, that is just it. I do have a voice. I do have an opinion. And, what I have to say matters.

During the weekend of March 9, I was fortunate enough to be an attendee at the Mid-East Regional Conference for the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA). UNA members from Pennsylvania and neighboring states came together and spent all weekend preparing for an advocacy visit on Capitol Hill and learning about the needed support for the United Nations. On Monday, teams of advocates marched to their Congressional representatives’ offices and made appeals for support of the United Nations.

The “ask” (what you are posing to your legislator to support) that we had on these particular Hill visits was for the United States Congress to have continued support for the United Nations and their efforts around the world, specifically to maintain funding for necessary programs, ratifying treaties, such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea. These are key issues that our leaders need to be made aware of!

As a Jefferson Master of Public Health Student, I was surprised at how well I was prepared to talk about Global Health issues as they pertain to the United Nations. Thanks to two classes I’m taking this semester – Public Health Policy and Advocacy, and Global Health – I knew the issues and felt prepared to share my stories. We live in a great nation, which has power on the international stage, and need to compel our leaders to ensure our stance in the future. For example, can you imagine a day where American support and funding to the United Nations is either shrunk or completely defunded? The implications would be dire; the United Nations is a great peacekeeping body on the Earth. The United States’ national security and influence in international issues would become a figment of the past.

To my classmates, friends, and the Jefferson community, I would suggest that you become an advocate. Whether you agree with my trip to Capitol Hill or not, pick what interests you and be a voice. Note that not all advocates are going to Capitol Hill and meeting with our Nation’s leaders. We live in a great city that is ripe with issues to be addressed by our local, city government, and at Jefferson we have the support and resources to make a difference.

Jeffrey A. Nafash is a student in the Master of Public Health Program at the Jefferson School of Population Health.