What I Learned from Lobby Day
WFCO’s Lobby Day: A Warm Welcome to the Capitol
At 6:45 on the morning of March 15, 2018, The Women’s Foundation team met outside the golden doors of the Capitol’s visitors entrance. As the sun began to rise, so did our excitement. We were about to host over 70 statewide WFCO supporters for our first ever Lobby Day event. As we began setting up and guests began to trickle in, I surprisingly started to feel calm. Lobby Day was the culmination of months of preparation and design, and at last, we were there.
This past school year I had the opportunity to be a member of the WFCO team as the social work and public policy intern out of the Denver University’s Graduate School of Social Work. My major project as an intern was to plan and implement Lobby Day. This event was highly anticipated by staff, board members, and our community members who were eager to engage meaningfully in the legislative process. Available spots for our inaugural Lobby Day were quickly filled, and for many of those attendees, it was their first time at the Capitol.
What is Lobby Day?
At Lobby Day, participants had unique opportunities to observe the legislative session by sitting on the floor of the House and Senate, or survey the goings-on from the chamber balconies, or partake in a specialized tour of the Capitol with WFCO’s contract lobbyist. Elected officials periodically joined WFCO to speak to attendees and shared their goals for this session. And lastly, participants heard from a panel of legislative aides and community members who shared their expert insights and tips for advocacy.
To kick off the event, Speaker of the House Cristanta Duran took the podium and spoke to attendees. The speaker shared her perspective on the importance of speaking up for justice, specifically within the #MeToo movement. She reflected on her success of being the first Latina woman to be elected Speaker of the House in Colorado and highlighted her admiration and appreciation for the work of WFCO. Then, Lauren Y. Casteel, president and CEO of The Women’s Foundation, shared a favorite Margaret Mead quote of hers to our group: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” And there we were, a powerful, committed force, driven by our mission to make a difference for women and families in Colorado.
What we heard, what we learned
Attending The Women’s Foundation’s inaugural Lobby Day was educational and inspirational. We met with state legislators, professional lobbyists, and WFCO leaders to learn first-hand about the issues facing women and children and their access to a high quality of life.
Attendees commented on the special nature of this experience. They remarked on how educational the event was, through gathering diverse voices to help paint a holistic picture of the legislature. Attendees left the event feeling energized, proud, and with the tools to become advocates for WFCO’s policy initiatives.
Claire Bouchard, a WFCO supporter, commented: “Attending The Women’s Foundation’s inaugural Lobby Day was educational and inspirational. We met with state legislators, professional lobbyists, and WFCO leaders to learn first-hand about the issues facing women and children and their access to a high quality of life.”
As I stood in the Old Supreme Court Chambers, surrounded by stained glass honoring moments and leaders of our past, I reflected on the past months of work and the past year of my social work program. I felt empowered and brave. I understood in that moment that I could create change and help to repair this world. My knowledge and skills that I developed will be used in my professional career and I am so grateful to have had this experience. I am driven to continue to do this work, to give access to the Colorado legislature to folks who want to be involved, and to help lift the voices of women and girls nationwide.
Lobby Day is a highlight of my post-secondary education. I am proud that WFCO’s reputation at the Capitol grew with influence, and Lobby Day will now be an annual event. I look forward to seeing how it progresses in years to come.