Whether it’s world peace, climate change, poverty, or justice, Quaker lobbyist Ruth Flower has lobbied Congress about it. And she wants you to become a lobbyist, too.
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- Ruth Flower says that the way Quakers approach lobbying is to talk to anyone, no matter what assumptions we might have about them. Where do you think this approach comes from? How do these principles play out in our lives in other ways?
- Ruth says that when she goes into a politician’s office, she’s talking to “that of God” in them. What does she mean? What situation have you been in where you were speaking to “that of God in someone else?”
There’s something about Quakerism that calls us into the work directly, that tied to our faith is, sort of, you kind of expect yourself to live out the Gospels and the challenges to be to one another the way we would want to be in the world.
A Quaker Lobbyist on Capitol Hill
My name is Ruth Flower. I live in Takoma Park, Maryland, and my work is that I’m legislative director at Friends Committee on National Legislation. FCNL is a network of Quakers all over the country who want to affect public policy, and they get involved in it by relating to the staff here in Washington who keep a really close tab on what’s going on on the Hill.
We work on everything from peace issues, how to get out of whatever war we’re in right now and how to prevent the next one, environmental issues, how to save this planet before it’s completely gone, and the justice issues and the economic issues that affect so many people here. We have about, let’s see, seven lobbyists, plus program assistants that work with them. We have a communications team, a strategic advocacy team. We’re rarin’ to go.
A Quaker Approach to Lobbying
Quakers have had their hands in change in a lot of ways, from direct service, helping people, doing Friends Ambulance Service during the war, feeding children, all of these kinds of things. And marching with the Suffragettes and helping to lead these movements as well. Lobbying is just a part of it. Lobbying is something that a good number of us want to do because it’s a way to just talk to another human being.
I think it’s very much part of our faith as Quakers that we talk to everybody. We just do. And that’s been kind of a slogan that we use on our various coalitions that we’re in. When nobody wants to talk to a certain office, I’ll say Quakers will talk to them. I’ll confess, I will look at their websites and think, oh my goodness this is going to be uncomfortable. But, we’ll go in, and, you know, introduce ourselves and ask them what they think about this issue, this problem, and work on having an open conversation and we’ll have an open conversation. It’s the most amazing thing. I surprise myself over and over again.
Lobbying As a Spiritual Practice
When I enter an office to lobby anybody, and I don’t care what side of the aisle they’re on, I’m always nervous. I do remind myself that God is in the room, and that there is that of God in everyone, including myself—brings me strength, brings me joy—and in the person that I’m speaking with. I can lose track of that during the conversation, if a few things are said that kind of shock me. But it’s kind of like deep breathing.
To go back to that understanding that there’s that of God in this person, and that’s who I’m speaking to… I’m not speaking to the fear, I’m not speaking to whatever training the person has given themselves to get through the world as they see it. I’m speaking to their better part, to that of God.
If you were a person that really wants to be part of this particular way of making change, you can join with FCNL and the kinds of things that we do by going to our website. You look at a tab called Action and under that, you can find ways that you can specify things that you would like to receive from us.
If you just choose those things that speak to your heart! If it is world peace, we have plenty for you. If it is poverty, we have plenty for you. We have things where you can hook on and make a difference in those areas. You can do things about climate change in your own area.
We have just gotten a Republican-only bill introduced on climate change, and that was done by local people in local districts meeting with their member of congress that they thought they knew and that they thought that they didn’t like. They do like them now. They’re authors of the only Republican-only bill in congress on climate change. So, you can do things that make a huge difference moving forward, just by doing your part.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.