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Influence Policy in Washington, D.C.: Be an Activist for a Day

Getting the attention of policymakers in Washington, D.C., can be difficult, especially when they blow past you in a window-tinted Suburban at 50 miles per hour on a residential street. (Obeying speed limits isn’t their thing. Nor is paying parking tickets.) That’s why some interest groups encourage their members to move beyond just paying dues and become activists.

Activism can take many forms, from sending postcards to stampeding down congressional corridors while being chased by Capitol police (it happens). Some large groups have established events they hold annually in Washington to remind policymakers that they exist and that they command the support of thousands of their constituents.

Walks and runs for certain charities are a popular pastime, especially to highlight federal funding to fight certain illnesses, such as leukemia or breast cancer, or certain political issues or causes. For example, every year thousands of activists descend upon Washington for the annual March for Life walk to remind legislators about their antiabortion stance.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that activism is only for the fringe crowd that never got over Vietnam. People from all walks of life and with all kinds of political beliefs take on the role of activist. They serve a vital role in focusing policymakers’ attention on pressing issues and getting the message out loud and clear that many Americans care deeply about those issues.

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