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Advocacy: Connecting with your legislators during the August recess

The August recess is the perfect time for constituents to reach out to their representatives.

Each year, Congress takes a break from legislative activity for a ‘recess’ during the month of August. The timing of this recess is historically rather practical. When the Senate was first established, it worked out of offices not yet equipped with the modern marvel that is air conditioning. The summer heat was so intense that a summer break became a necessity.

Once the 1950s hit, air conditioning was well established, but that meant the need to escape from the heat no longer existed. Eventually, members of Congress realized that there were still benefits to the break from legislative work either way, so they established a mandated summer recess as part of the 1970 Legislative Reorganization Act. Now, the August recess is the perfect time for representatives to return home and spend time with their families.

Aerial Petty, DO, visits Florida Senator Marco Rubio's office.

Fortunately for us, the August recess is also the perfect time for constituents to spend time reaching out to their representatives. After all, we know they’re not in session. Representatives actually make it pretty easy for us. Throughout the recess, they host town halls, hold open office hours, and schedule meetings with different organizations. 

Here is how you can make the most out of the summer recess:

  • Ask about your representative’s schedule. Contact their office or check their social media pages to find out when they’ll be visiting your area, hosting a town hall, or holding office hours. I have yet to find a representative who doesn’t have a Twitter handle these days, and you can also visit senate.gov or house.gov to view their contact information. 
  • Use your resources. One of the most important parts of an effective conversation with your representative involves being familiar with the issue on which you’re speaking. Know your facts, and know your representative’s position on the topic. You can use resources like the Osteopathic Advocacy Network and your osteopathic specialty’s advocacy network. As a family medicine resident, I refer to my osteopathic specialty college to stay informed on both state and federal issues. You can find a list of the osteopathic specialty colleagues on the AOA website.  
  • Plan your talking points. Once you’ve decided to attend that town hall or those office hours, create a clear and concise plan for what you’d like to discuss. Pick the most important one or two topics you have, include a personal story that highlights just how important that topic is, and offer legislators a resource or handout they can use to follow up. 
  • Keep your momentum going. Make sure you’ve provided your representative’s office with your contact information so that you can continue to provide any insight or additional resources as needed. Send a follow-up letter briefly reiterating your conversation and thanking them for their time or create a social media post in support of your position and tag them in it. Once you’ve reached out to your representative, continue to advocate for your issue. 

No matter how you choose to spend your August, whether you are vacationing, conducting research or working through the summer, it’s a great idea to take advantage of the time you have to connect with your representatives during their August recess. The one thing that medicine and policy have in common is that a summer break is never really just a break. During August, you can start to make things happen just in time for the next session. 

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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