Meet With Your Representatives
Members of Congress want to hear directly from their constituents about what is most important to them. Your in-district meeting with your Representative or their staff can help influence legislation and challenge U.S. militarism. Here are tips on scheduling and holding that meeting:
Step 1 - Schedule the Meeting
Decide if you want to schedule the meeting in DC or in your district. You can find the contact information for both offices on your Senator/MoC’s website. Call the office and say: “Hello, my name is _____ and I am a constituent in (city, state). I would like to set up a meeting with [Senator/Representative X]. What is the best way to submit a meeting request?”
Some offices will set up the meeting via phone, but others will want you to submit a written request. Here is a sample meeting request letter:
Dear Representative/Senator X,
I am writing as a constituent from (City,State) who is concerned about drone warfare in U.S. military policy. I would like to schedule an in-district meeting to discuss what the U.S. is doing to protect civilians in combat zones and to promote diplomatic relations between nations.
I hope you will be available to meet with myself and a group of concerned constituents from (city,state/school). If not, we would like to meet with the appropriate staff member. I will be sure to follow-up to ensure that this request was received.
(Your Phone Number and Your Email Address)
Follow Up on a meeting request if you haven’t heard back after 1 week.
Step 2 - Prepare for the Meeting
This is a really exciting opportunity to work directly with the people making legislation – so make the most of it!
Get a small group of peace activists together before the meeting to practice and assign roles. Does someone have experience working in a conflict/post-conflict zone? Is there a Veteran in your group who is opposed to war? Everyone has different experiences and reasons why they care about peace, so everyone should have a chance to speak.
You should also take this opportunity to find any materials you’d like to leave behind with the Representative. You may only have 15-20 minutes to meet with them, so you won’t cover everything. If there is a brochure or policy paper you’d like to leave behind, prepare it.
Step 3 - Starting the Meeting on the Right Foot
Have everyone introduce themselves and shake hands with the person you are meeting. A team leader should introduce Peace Action, mentioning: (1) that we are the largest grassroots peace organization and (2) a bi-partisan organization committed to promoting smart diplomacy and peace in U.S. policy and (3) that we are about policy, advocacy, awareness and action. You should also introduce your campus chapter, and mention the number of members in your chapter.
Step 4 - Make a Personal Connection
Why are you meeting about this issue? Your Representative wants to know why you care about this issue, and why it matters not just to you, but to the community you are a part of – and to the community he/she is tasked with representing. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce the ask. Here’s an example:
The refugee community in my hometown has benefitted our community in so many ways: increasing cross cultural dialogue, driving the local economy and fostering a more diverse, inclusive atmosphere in our schools. I’m proud to be from a place that celebrates diversity, which is why I am asking you, as my Representative, to support refugee resettlement and co-sponsor H.R. (XXXX).
Step 5 - Thank the Staff Member for Meeting With You
Thank the Member of Congress/Staff for taking the time to meet with you and discuss ways to position the US as a leader in peace.
Step 6 - Explain Why This Issue Matters to This Representative
You already mentioned why this issue matters to you – but why does it matter to this Member of Congress? Try to connect the issue to the Member’s past voting history.
For example, with Republican Representatives you might talk about the fiscal irresponsibility of the Pentagon and how it has never been audited. Whereas, with Democratic Representatives, you might talk about the mistakes of the Iraq war, and how engaging in a conflict in the Middle East with no clear exit plan created the power vacuum that allowed ISIL to flourish.
Note: A lot of this information can be found in the Campaigns section of this website.
Step 7 - Make the Detailed Ask
Close your meeting by asking the Member of Congress/Staff Person to support the specific issue/legislation that brought you to their office. You can contact Kate at Peace Action New York State for the best language to use.
The biggest resource you have as an advocate is your credibility – so make sure you know everything you can about any specific legislation you are asking your Representative to support. You will want to keep your ask short, but if the Representative has questions, you should either (a) answer them with confidence because you know the answers or (b) admit that you don’t have this information at this time, and promise to follow up. Do not answer questions that you do not know the answer to.
Step 8 - Hand Deliver Letters/Petition Signatures
If you’ve been collecting letters or having concerned community members sign a petition to this Representative on this issue – this is the best time to deliver it! Petitions and letters make the most significant impact when hand delivered. For creative ideas on how to deliver petitions, check out our Organizers Toolbox page on Creative Petition Delivery.
Step 9 - Get a Photo
Don’t forget to snap a photo (even a selfie!) with the Member of Congress or Staff member who you and your team met with. It’s a great token for your group, and shows what an impact you’ve had.
Step 10 - Follow Up and Say Thanks
Be sure to save the business card of the Staff Member you met with, so you can send that person and/or your Representative a “Thank You” note for meeting with you. And, be sure to follow up with Peace Action New York State. We want to hear about your meeting!
Contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell PANYS all about your visit. This will provide valuable information as we work together with Congress to shape U.S. foreign policies. You may even want to write a blog about the meeting, and we’ll post it online – along with that photo you took (see Step 9).
Not sure who your Representatives are?
Click here to find out and to find their contact information.
To download a PDF version of these instructions – which you can print for meetings or events – click here: Download PDF.