My trip to the other Washington | Guest View

By Leslie Brown | Apr 09, 2017
Leslie Brown

I recently had the good fortune to meet Ryan Murphy, Save the Children Action Network’s (SCAN) community mobilizer for Washington state.

SCAN is the political arm of Save the Children. Ryan is coordinating communities to raise awareness of the core issues SCAN is addressing: domestic programs which support early childhood learning such as Head Start, and global initiatives on maternal, newborn and child survival.

I have been working in Nepal, Kenya and the Philippines on children’s issues, so I met with Ryan and asked if I could help. He invited me to work with him as the Outreach Team Leader for King and Snohomish counties.

As part of that role, I was invited to attend the Save the Children Action Network Advocacy Summit March 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

The event was held at the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet University, the first college for the deaf in the U.S., where American Sign Language is used along with English for instruction.

Mark K. Shriver, president of SCAN, met with the team leaders the first day with some inspiring comments about Save the Children’s role in reducing maternal, newborn, and child mortality by over half in the last 25 years.

He talked about the benefits of early childhood learning around America in overcoming poverty and giving low-income children an equal opportunity to excel in K-12.

The next two days we attended the Advocacy Summit, which was opened by Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, and Jill Biden,

We went to multiple advocacy training sessions with community advocates and student ambassadors from high schools and colleges in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Illinois and Washington.

We learned about the strategies Save the Children has applied to expand high-quality early childhood education through Head Start. We also learned about their work to end preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children globally. While I had met Save the Children’s teams in Nepal and Kenya, I never fully appreciated the significance and expanse of their work in saving people’s lives.

The most important work occurred on March 28, when we all went to Capitol Hill to meet our Washington state representatives. The Washington contingent of SCAN team leaders and student ambassadors, about 20 of us in all met with Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Suzan DelBene, Adam Smith and Dave Reichert. Representative’s staffers met with us when the congressperson wasn’t available. We lobbied for continued federal funding of Head Start and Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for early childhood education, and for support of the REACH Act, which was introduced by Reichert to end preventable maternal and child deaths globally.

Both the House and Senate buildings were very chaotic, with crowds of people and lobbying groups everywhere.

As I prepared to enter one room, the door flew open and Attorney General Jeff Sessions walked out right in front of me. He rushed off down the hallway with his aides in tow. Other notables were seen rushing through the hallways, Sens. Marco Rubio and John McCain, to name a few.

We also met with Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell’s representatives in the U.S. Senate building.

Cantwell’s office invited us to the Capitol building to meet her in person. We loaded onto the underground train, traveled to the Capitol and went up several flights to the President’s Room, a beautiful setting.

She greeted each of us individually and spent 30 minutes talking with us about the proposed budget and the upcoming fight to preserve these critical funds for Head Start and maternal, newborn and child survival initiatives.

Cantwell is a strong advocate for Head Start, so she will be one of the bipartisan representatives fighting to preserve full funding during the upcoming budget process. We were very happy to meet with her face to face and know she cares about Washington’s children.

By 3 p.m., we headed for Dulles International Airport for our return flight. Despite a long and tiring day, we were feeling energized by our lobbying efforts. Everyone there was united by the same passion, advocating for our children’s future by assuring our leaders make early childhood education and maternal, newborn and child survival priorities for our tax dollars.

A note on community activism: When people come together and make their voices heard, our representatives listen.

This was most recently evident when the Washington state House of Representatives voted to include 2,000 new Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) slots and to maintain eligibility for 3-year-olds in our current state budget.

Activism works!

I hope you will join us 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, for a special screening of the PBS documentary, “The Class of ’27,” followed by a question-and-answer panel about early childhood learning, at Edmonds United Methodist Church.

For more information, email me at mtles44@gmail.com.

Leslie Brown is Edmonds resident and international nonprofit consultant.

 

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