Tuesday, January 9, 2007

What to do with an HDSA Alert?

Yesterday I passed along an HDSA alert without comment. At the time I was obviously wearing my “Information Sharer” hat instead of my new “Hd Advocate” hat. It seems that I’m still trying to adjust the band on the new hat. I want to spend a little more time on this alert and actually do something with it that I believe will make as much of an impact as possible – however small it may be.

So now that I’ve received an alert what should I do with it? HDSA clearly asked us to take action.

“Please contact your Congressional Representative and Senators TODAY and ask them to support the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. For your representatives go to http://www.house.gov/ and http://www.senate.gov/

My first thought concluded that passage of this bill moves HDSA further along in achieving their mission. What is their mission? Their mission is to find a cure for Hd – and the means to achieve that is to fund as best they can, as many research opportunities as possible that look promising. More research means more opportunities to identify a cure.

Note: I’ll not argue with anyone that a cure for a genetic disease is likely impossible so you should assume that when I use the word “cure” that I’m referring to a treatment that will either stop the progression of the disease or delay the damage it does until an advanced age.

I’m already contributing as much as I should toward funding research. Embryonic stem cell research is another frontier – just as promising as any other and since I also want to see this opportunity grow it only makes since that I should make some effort to make it happen.

The first thing I did was go to http://www.house.gov as directed by the alert and up in the top left of the page there is a box for “Find Your Representative” so I typed in my Zip code clicked on Go. The result was the representative for my district who is John Carter of the 31st District of Texas. I then clicked on his name which took me to his Web site. A couple of clicks later I ended back up at the www.house.gov Web site on the page. Maybe I missed something but I should have been directed to in the first place. The page is: http://www.house.gov/writerep/. I think this page, from their perspective, is effective because they have a few tricks in place to reduce automated spam from lobbying groups. So now I know HOW this communication is going to take place. What will take place is that I’ll select my congressman and then work through their filters and then I’ll be prompted for the text of my message to my congressman. So I need to first prepare my message.

To the Honorable John Carter, ….

I think I need some coaching on how to effectively write to my congressman. It’s Google time.

I’m easily distracted and this time is no exception. I stumbled across congress.org and spent too much time bouncing around its pages. I need to get back on track so I made a note to return at a later time.

Here are some simple tips that I found while bouncing around the Net.

  1. Include your address and phone number, the date, their address and a salutation something like the following: To the honorable Senator John Q. Politician.
  2. Include a reference to the bill by its specific number or however it is known.
  3. In the body of your letter make it clear what you know about the topic, what you know about your congressman’s involvement with that issue, what you want and what you will do politically to get it.By stating what you will do politically I mean the following. You will be most effective if you come right out and politely but clearly tell your congressman that if they want your vote in the next election they should vote the way you are asking them to on that particular issue.This makes it very certain where you stand and that you are serious.
  4. You can write about several issues in one letter but may find it more effective to write a separate letter on each issue.
  5. If you have any genuine political influence yourself you may want to find a way of making it known as well.
  6. Request a reply to your letter, which you should always receive regardless.
  7. Sign and date it.

But then I came to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s instructions on how to effectively contact your congressional representatives. Egad! I’ve obviously got a little more studying to do. (Insert pregnant pause here). About 2/3 into the page (http://www.eff.org/congress/ ) all of the interesting stuff starts (printed out it’s 12 pages long so the really good stuff starts on page 8. Further down the section on “do’s and don’ts” is really sweet stuff for beginning advocates like me.

Well, I obviously need to take some time and carefully craft my letter based on these new insights. First impressions are always the best impressions - right?

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