How Can I Make My Voice Heard?

Rallying to save health care outside the U.S. Capitol (June 21, 2017)

A question I’ve heard often from Oregonians in my 46 town halls so far this year cuts to the very core of our American democracy.

That question from Oregonians in every nook and cranny of our state is “How can I make my voice heard?”

No doubt this question arises from the extraordinary political times we are living in and Oregonians’ innate desire to make a difference in the world around them.

My answer to this fundamental question can be summarized in four strategies, all aimed to maximizing “people power.”

First, it’s important to note that every traditional form of constituent engagement matters — whether that’s contacting my office by email or phone.

And of course, as the proud host of 827 town halls and counting in my Senate service, I strongly encourage all constituents to attend one of my annual town halls in each of Oregon’s 36 counties.

All of these opportunities to contact elected officials are great examples of how I believe political change usually starts from the bottom up rather than the top down.

One vivid example of how people power proved effective was citizens’ pushback through every form of constituent engagement to fight successfully against two dangerous bills, called PIPA and SOPA, that would have squelched the Internet.

Second, tap your friends and family network in other states to amplify your voice.

I bet every one of you reading this piece has a friend or a loved one who shares your values yet may not think much about how decisions made in Washington DC affect them — or how they can affect those decisions.

So here’s one thing you can do right now: talk with that friend or loved one about calling their elected officials in their states to make their views known.

For example, you could tell your friend to call their lawmaker to express concern about proposed Trump cuts threatening Medicaid support for pediatric care, nursing home care for two out of three seniors living in nursing homes, education for special-needs children, and other health care like substance misuse treatment.

If your friend or loved one cares about a solid public education for all children, you could urge them to call their legislator to tell them “hands off” to siphoning scarce taxpayer dollars from public schools or to scuttling student loan programs.

If each of you gets one more person involved in any of those issues I just listed and so many others, it will make a huge difference.

Third, use my website as another venue to amplify your voice.

At wyden.senate.gov, I am pleased to provide a link where you can send your comment to the Federal Communication Commission on the topic of net neutrality — an issue many constituents have asked me about.

And my website also has a link where anybody can share their story of the damage Trumpcare would pose to them or their families. Videos of your stories of how the Republican health plan would hurt you or your family are especially compelling. You can share these videos or stories and tag me in them on Twitter and Facebook.

Sharing personal stories is a powerful way to influence decisionmakers.

Fourth and finally, let’s put all of our voices together to make Oregon the place that says no to hate.

The horrific MAX attack on May 26 in Portland highlighted all too painfully the consequences of hate for two girls terrorized on a train because one was wearing a hijab, and for the two good Samaritans who lost their lives and a third good Samaritan who was seriously injured defending those young women.

From Portland to Port Orford, from Enterprise to Eugene and all points in between, we must never shrink from the ugly face of hate.

As the son of parents who fled the Nazis, I know full well the importance of speaking out against hate at every turn.

And I have full confidence that the ways I have outlined to answer the “How can I make my voice heard?” question can all be civil and productive ways to make our democracy even better and more effective.