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26 June 2019
UNA-NCA Participates in UNA-USA Lobby Day

By: Bonnie Worstell, Development and Advocacy Program Manager, and Sean Coffey, Development and Advocacy Program Assistant

On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, over 500 UNA-USA members from all 50 states met with their Congressional representatives and staff in over 300 scheduled meetings. UNA-NCA members visited offices in our jurisdiction from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Members urged their Congressional representatives and staff to support full fundingfor the assessed U.S. dues to the United Nations’ regular budget, UN Peacekeeping, and specialized agencies. Additionally, advocates encouraged their representatives to also support paying UN Peacekeeping arrears incurred over the last few years as a result of Congress not lifting a 25% cap on peacekeeping. UNA-USA members connected these priorities to their own lives and stories, strengthening the case for Congressional support of a strong U.S.-UN partnership.

Of the 500 UNA-USA members participating in Lobby Day, half were under the age of 26. Amongst these youthful voices, UNA-NCA Program Assistants had the opportunity to add their voices to the mix. Alexander Oddo, Programs and Membership Program Assistant, said of his experience visiting representatives from his home states of North and South Carolina, “Lobby Day gave me new friends with novel ideas and new hope for a future where nations, rather than nationalists, are united.” Sean Coffey, Development and Advocacy Program Assistant, said after meeting with staff from Nebraskan offices that “Lobby day was my favorite part of the Global Leadership Summit, as we were given a first-hand perspective to the front lines of political advocacy by making our voices heard to our representatives about the significance of the United Nations.”

Virginia constituents were split into three different groups, one of which blended with D.C. residents. However, the three Virginia groups came together to visit the offices of Virginia’s Senators. The first two meetings of the morning were with Legislative Assistant Andrew Kalaris from Senator Tim Kaine’s office and Legislative Assistant Caroline Wadhams from Senator Mark Warner’s office. Both Senators are strong advocates for the United Nations, and Senator Kaine serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Mr. Kalaris emphasized that climate change prevention and mitigation was one of the Senator’s top priorities. Ms. Wadhams thanked UNA advocates for championing this cause, as “the work you’re doing really does matter.” When advocates bring important issues to the table, it allows their representative to fight for their legislative interests. After all, constituents are considered the bosses. 

In the afternoon, the first group visited with Molly Cole, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Gerry Connolly, and Mike Lucier who serves as the Legislative Director for Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton.  Both Legislators are strong supporters of the United Nations, and Representative Connolly serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The second group split off in the afternoon to visit Jason Eagleburger from Representative Riggleman’s office (R-VA-5). The group was encouraged to set up an in-district meeting to further discuss the issues and meet the Representative. A veteran, Representative Riggleman has seen first-hand the necessity for the United States to utilize the UN instead of getting involved in conflicts directly. The group also visited Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Zach Cafritz from Representative Don Beyer’s office (D-VA-8). A long-time supporter of the UN, and signatory on a letter urging for the U.S. to fully fund peacekeeping, Representative Beyer clearly supports the efforts of UNA-NCA. Advocates finished the afternoon by dropping materials at Representative Rob Wittman’s office (R-VA-1). 

The third Virginia group started their afternoon meetings with Legislative Assistant Christina Ingram from Congressman Bobby Scott’s office (D-VA-3). Secondly, the group spoke with Legislative Assistant Lillian Adelstein from Delegate Eleanor Norton’s office (D-DC). Past president, Mr. Edward Elmendorf, discussed in detail about the outreach and programs UNA-USA organizes, as well as mentioning its history. 

Maryland advocates were split into two separate groups. The first group started Lobby Day by visiting Legislative Assistant Katherine Close from Senator Ben Cardin’s office (D-MD). Next, the group met with Travis Trejo from Congressman Andy Harris’s office (R-MD-1) and Legislative Aide Daniel Silverberg from Representative Steny Hoyer’s office (D-MD-5). For their final congressional visit, the advocates spoke with Legislative Assistant Jordan Blumenthal from 12-term Congressman Elijah Cummings’s office (D-MD-7). In addition, the team dropped off materials at Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger’s office (D-MD-2). The meetings covered several topics regarding U.S.-UN affairs, most notably the SFOPS bill which is expected to go to the Senate floor in the coming weeks. Within the group, there was a diversity of professional backgrounds coupled with various ethnic, racial, and geographic identities to present their own personal connections to the United Nations. 

The second Maryland group started at Senator Chris Van Hollen’s office (D-MD) to meet with Fellow Paul Warnke, a former UN intern. As Senator Van Hollen has been a strong supporter of the UN, and a recent speaker at the UNA-NCA Annual Meeting, advocates focused on providing resources for the Senator to engage other Members in Congress in better understanding the value of the UN to their jurisdictions. In the afternoon, the group met with Foreign Policy Fellow Brianne Klimas for Representative Raskin’s office (D-MD-8), in which they discussed the appropriations status of the SFOPS bill. They followed with a visit with Jordan Wolfe from Representative Sarbanes’ office (D-MD-3), in which they discussed a multitude of subjects ranging from the value of UN Peacekeeping to global health topics. Finally, the team ended the afternoon by dropping off materials at Representative Brown’s office (D-MD-4). 

With an estimated 500 advocates organized across generational, racial, gender, and political lines, Lobby Day embodied the grass-roots advocacy UNA-USA aims at mobilizing. UNA-NCA members connected their personal stories and knowledge to promote the values of the UN and to further solidify the relationship between the US and the UN. Many of the offices visited by UNA-NCA advocates were not a hard sell, but a celebration of the role that many of these Representatives and Senators have made in promoting a stronger US-UN partnership.