My Crash Course in Advocacy
Experience, as the saying goes, is a cruel teacher: it gives a test before presenting the lesson. It is also, as I have come to learn, the single most important ingredient in success. The great thing about experience is that it comes in many forms and varying levels, and best of all there’s no such thing as too much of it.
This week, during my internship at the National LGBTQ Task Force, was full of many first experiences for me. It was my first time interning at a nonprofit organization, my first time watching a Commissioner’s briefing, my first time listening in on staff meetings and conference calls. I could go on, but you get the idea.
My first day here at the National LGBTQ Task Force office, I found myself playing a never-ending game of catch-up. As I scrambled to write down every single task and piece of information that was being passed to me, I struggled to keep up with the stimulating, fast paced environment. In between staff meetings, conference calls, and debriefings, I tried to hurry back to my desk to look up names or unfamiliar bills and amendments that had come up in the meeting I had just attended. Looking back over my notes from the beginning of the week, I see many words or sentences only half written out, practically illegible as I rushed to jot down the next point of a conversation.
I decided to make myself an outline of all of the major hot topics this week, so that I could refer back to them later to refresh my memory. Topics including the re-introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Loretta Lynch’s prolonged confirmation as US Attorney General, the Hyde Amendment, and the new Utah LGBT anti-discrimination housing and employment law. What I quickly learned is that none of these current events are disconnected from each other. Apart from the obvious fact that they all relate in some way to LGBTQ rights, they are also all intricately related and intertwined with each other.
I came here this week with hopes of getting a feel for a nonprofit work environment. One of the beneficial experiences I gained was the opportunity to briefly interview members of different departments, in order to get a better idea of what each of them does and how they work. What was so cool to me was that here, in this one small office on Massachusetts Avenue in DC, every single person is making a difference. From working on Federal legislation level to grassroots organizing, people here are creating measurable change for the better. Listening to Public Policy and Government Affairs Director Stacey Long Simmons discuss the crucial wording of a small phrase on a piece of legislation, or watching Faith and States Organizing Manager Kathleen Campisano’s face light up as she described to me the unparalleled feeling of speaking with a voter, and knowing that she changed that voter’s mind: these are the important lessons I am left with. Every change, no matter how nuanced or small, makes a difference.
I found myself coming in each day with a deeper understanding of the work being done. As a current college undergrad, I am told so often that life and issues are not black and white, and here at the National LGBTQ Task Force I was able to see this first hand. As I observed, it is not always clear where an organization stands on a particular bill or subject, and making these types of decisions only comes with experience. I have deep appreciation and admiration for all of the people I worked with here, and I can only hope that one day I will gain as much experience as they have, to be able to do this type of important work with such dignity and ease.
by Meredith Wolpe, National LGBTQ Task Force Intern