You know what August means: long hot days, back-to-school sales, and yes — Congressional recess!
With most Members of Congress spending the month back home in their districts, it’s time for military family advocates to show up and speak out at local town hall events.
What is uniquely powerful about speaking at a town hall event?
Emails and phone calls are great, but face-to-face interactions can be the most powerful way to stick in someone’s mind. We can’t all land a one-on-one meeting with our representatives, so showing up to a town hall can be our next best way in. Besides, sometimes Members of Congress listen more carefully to issues they hear about in their districts than issues they hear about in D.C.
Plus, there’s power in the public-facing nature of town halls. You’ve got an audience of fellow constituents who can visually or verbally back up what you’re saying. You’ve got members of the press covering the event who may include your contributions in the article they’re writing, or even ask you for an interview afterward!
In our experience, town halls are the best platforms for 1) bringing attention to a new issue, 2) bringing attention to an old issue in a new way, or 3) emphasizing an issue that your Member of Congress typically shies away from.
Where do I find out about town halls in my district?
Most Members of Congress will advertise town halls on their websites or their social media pages, so check there first. Otherwise, we use the Town Hall Project which keeps a pretty comprehensive list across the country.
If your representative doesn’t have a town hall? Time for a petition! Nothing like a butt-load of constituent signatures to shame a Member of Congress into doing their job…
Tips for speaking at a Town Hall
Did you know that most town halls offer the opportunity for just about anybody to raise their hand and speak? Pretty nifty, huh? It may feel a bit intimidating, but we have tips to help you feel more prepared. We know you can do it!
- Bring a buddy! Either a friend, family member, or an entire local advocacy organization can show up and back you up.
- Pick a targeted topic. Try to keep your remarks focused on one single issue you care about — no manifestos.
- Establish connection. Right at the top, make sure to mention whether you’re a voter, a resident, or have some other connection to their district. This clues them in that you’re a constituent whose voice matters.
- Include a story, if possible. Often this is where you can mention your military connection, because that part of our lives is sometimes the reason for why we care about the things we do.
- But also keep it short. In a town hall, you only have about 30 seconds maximum to ask your question. Any story that starts with the day you were born is probably way too long.
- Practice! Practice! Practice! Self explanatory.
More questions? Send us a message and we are happy to coach you through whatever it is.
Send us a picture! We always love seeing our military family advocates out there fighting the good fight. Take a selfie and tag us in it so we can celebrate your work.