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Undergrads Shed Light on How Best to Communicate with Members of Congress [VIDEO]

CMF would like to congratulate Earlham College juniors David Schutt and Clara Stuligross for taking first prize at the Project Pericles 2012 Debating for Democracy™ (D4D) National Conference!

Project Pericles is a nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates commitments by colleges and universities to include social responsibility and participatory citizenship in their educational programs. Every year Project Pericles Sponsors Debating for Democracy™ (D4D), a campus-based co-curricular program that puts the mission of Project Pericles in action. In this program students’ research, develop, and advocate their opinions and positions on current public policy issues.

The last activity of the conference was the D4D Legislative Hearing in which five finalists presented a letter written to an elected official. The hearing gave each set of finalists the opportunity to defend their ideas in front of a legislative committee that included former government officials: U.S. Senator Harris L. Wofford; U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Constance Berry Newman; and Mayor of Baltimore Kurt L. Schmoke.

The Earlham College team took first place and received a $3,000 award for their defense of their "Letter in Support of the Budget Control Act," written to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). To advance their issue, team members Schutt and Stuligross used a portion of their prize to produce “Effective Communication with Elected Officials – Tips and Tricks from Those on the Inside,” a video featuring Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and congressional staffers. The series of one-on-one interviews reveals much of the same insight that CMF has gained through our research.

All of the individuals featured in the video emphatically explain that constituent opinions are important to elected officials, and can have a big impact on the legislative process. Tips from the video include:

  • Have a specific ask;
  • Know what upcoming bills relate to your issue;
  • Be concise in your argument.

Again, we congratulate David Schutt and Clara Stuligross on taking first place and creating a well-informed and well-made video! We hope this sparks more interest for college students to learn how Congress really works and how best to communicate with Members of Congress and their staff on important issues. You can see some of CMF’s research on this topic here.

"Effective Communication with Elected Officials - Tips and Tricks from Those on the Inside"



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CMF is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its Members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry.

Our work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.

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