Why We're Here

A few hours ago I watched President Obama deliver his farewell speech to the nation. It was a good speech - warm, reflective, inspiring. All the things you'd want an outgoing, two-term president's speech to be. After the speech I did some laundry and did some tidying up around the house, but I couldn't stop thinking about one passage of the speech that resonated with me so strongly that it kinda weirded me out. Here's the passage:

If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. 

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.

If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. 

Show up, dive in, stay at it.


Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. And more often than not, your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been.

Did you catch that? Read the second sentence of the passage again:

If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.

That is literally how Let's Fix This got started. I saw that something needed fixing, so I laced up my shoes (err...or created a Facebook event) and started organizing. You can imagine my surprise when the leader of the free world told the American people to do that very same thing.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

In the spring of 2016, the local media posted story after story about the state budget shortfall and it's ramifications on state services. The government had declared not one but two "revenue failures" which resulted in two across-the-board budget cuts to all state agencies. Teachers and child welfare workers lost their jobs, disabled people lost benefits, poor people lost health insurance coverage. It was bad news all around, and it was getting worse every day. Like most folks, I mostly just reposted news articles on Facebook and exclaimed "Somebody should fix this!"

Now, I need to admit to you that at the time, I had never contacted my state legislators. Not even once. I didn't even know who they were. I actually had a couple of friends who were in the legislature, but I hadn't even bothered to reach out to them about anything. Sure, I knew I was "supposed" to send emails and make phone calls, but I didn't think it would matter and somehow I continued to rationalize that I didn't have time to do that. (As if sending one more email is really going to throw my entire day off track. Sheesh.) I started joking to friends that we should do it better - rather than an email or phone call, we should just take the day off of work and go to the Capitol and have a face-to-face conversation with our legislators about these issues. After the fourth or fifth person responded with "Yes, we should do that. If you organize it, I'll go with you," I knew what I needed to do. It seemed increasingly clear that my exclamation needed to change from "Someone should fix this" to "Let's fix this," with the contracted "us" meaning all of us - you, me, and our state legislators. We're all in this together, and we needed (and still need) to fix some stuff with how our government runs.

WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO

On my closet door still hangs a giant, 3' x 2' Post-It note from our first group meeting, on which we brainstormed a list of who we are and what we do:

 

The starred items are what it all boils down to: We are regular people who promote civic engagement and provide education to the public (about governmental/political topics) and to the legislature (about how those issues actually affect Oklahomans in real life). We want to empower people to engage with their elected officials by helping them understand how easy it is to do (and how effective it actually can be!). And while we are also nonpartisan, we also want to encourage our state legislature to be less partisan as well. Many of the issues facing our state really aren't inherently partisan issues, or at least they shouldn't be. Both parties should properly funding support public education. Both parties should support ensuring that widows and orphans and vulnerable people are protected and cared for. Both parties should support managing our state's money in such a way that is beneficial to the most people, not just for the benefit of the rich. And don't forget - both parties need input from their constituents. We can't expect them to represent us accurately if we don't talk to them.

Let's be honest - we're all sick and tired of Oklahoma being last in everything, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but getting better is going to take work, and it's going to require all of us working together to get there. You don't magically lose a bunch of weight by yelling on Facebook that "someone" needs to exercise - you actually have to do some work. (You also don't lose weight by simply pointing out that someone else is overweight, but that's the sort of non-working, painfully partisan, mud-slinging that we've gotten mired in.) 

WHAT'S NEXT?

You've got to do something, and I think you should make plans right now that you are going to be involved this legislative session. We want to make it super easy for you. Here's a quick to-do list to help:

1. Find out who your legislators are.

2. Call them or email them. It only takes 2 minutes, I promise.  (Pro tip: Write out what you want to say to them before you call. You can use this form we created to help you find your words.

3. Make plans to join us for one or more of our monthly Capitol Days. If you can, request off of work so you can really have a chance to experience and understand what happens at the Capitol. As an added bonus, in the evening following each Capitol Day we will have what we call a Capitol Crawl, where members of the legislature actually come hang out with us at nearby restaurants and bars. It's a really great opportunity to talk with them about issues in an environment that's not so...governmenty." [Web | Facebook]
    3a. Pro tip: if you plan to visit your representative and/or senator in person during a Capitol Day event, it's usually advisable to call ahead and make an appointment with them. 

4. Invite a friend or two (or twenty) to come with you. It's always less intimidating - and way more fun - when you have a friend with you. If they don't live in the same district as you, even better - you can go to each other's

5. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you can stay in the loop.

IN CLOSING

I started this post with a quote from Obama's speech, so in the spirit of bipartisanship, I'll end with a quote from the farewell speech of his predecessor, George W. Bush: 

President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past." As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead.

Oklahoma may be facing some tough times, but I, too, share in our past presidents' optimism about the future. We can do this, you guys. We can totally do this.