Thursday was the day that I was most nervous about. Going to speak to my representative was not my idea of fun. I don’t think I’ll put any of the lobbyists out of their jobs anytime soon. 8:00 am
All of us from Virginia got together at breakfast and Aimee let us in on the plan for the day. Unfortunately we had to modify the plan as not everyone who said they would be showing up actually did. But things got cleared up. We decided that half of the people present would go to Warner’s office at 10:00 am and the other half would go and see Allen’s office later in the day. In addition everyone would go to their respective Representative’s office in small groups.
The busses to the Hill were not scheduled to leave until 11:00, so those of us going to Warner’s office left early and got a van. Joining us was Greg Nojeim who is the Associate Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. The national office felt that Warner was a key member that needed to be talked with.
9:30 am - Lobby Day
We arrived at John Warner’s office in the Russell Senate Office Building only to find that through a mixup in communication, our meeting had been rescheduled to 2:00 pm. This put a slight hitch in the plan, but one of our group had gotten a copy of the Senate comittee schedule for that day and noticed that the Senate Judical Comittee’s Constiutional subcomittee was meeting starting at 9:30 and that the second item on their agenda was the Victim’s Rights Amendment. So we walked over to that building and sat in.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that their are tunnels going between all of the Senate and House buildings that allow you to move around without ever going outside. That is if you can find your way around as their are almost no signs.
After watching the subcomittee meeting, we walked over from the Senate side of Capitol Hill to the House side to meet with our representatives. We decided that since our groups had each a single person to each Representative that we would split up and have our meetings and then get back together for lunch.
I went to see Jo Ann Davis in room 1123 of the Longworth House Office Building. We knew the chances of actually meeting our Representative were slim to none but I ended meeting with Jonathon E. Kidwell, a Legislative assistant. He couldn’t have been much older than 22, and was quite pleasant but knew very little about the issues. I talked with him for around 10 or 15 minutes and then headed down to wait for everyone else.
As I was waiting to talk with Jonathon, another staffer came and gave a warning that there were hundreds of ACLU people walking the halls. They didn’t sound pleased.
Lunch; not much to say. 1 slice of pizza and a soda.
We arrived back at the Russell Building and met up with the rest of the people who were meeting with Senator Warner’s staff. Thankfully this meeting went much better. We met with one of his Legislative Assistants (whose card I did not get), but more importantly, his Deputy Legislative Director/Legislative Counsel, Christopher J. Yianilos. The 12 of us from Virginia talked with him for nearly 45 minutes on many issues. It was an intelligent discussion even though we obviously didn’t agree on many issues. I hope that it will at the least give Senator Warner a better picture of who the people behind the ACLU are and that we are not a bunch of loonies.
After the meeting we got a bus ride back to the hotel.
4:30 - Reception
This reception was the event that really tipped the scale for me and convinced me to go to the conference. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who does not have a website, weird) came to speak. At least she tried to speak in the beginning. There were significant microphone issues, and eventually Anthony Romero held a microphone for her entire set of comments.
She is a very quiet and soft spoken woman and I am afraid her speach was not all that interesting, but it was very interesting to learn that she was once a lawyer for the ACLU.
In addition to Justice Ginsburg, Dennis Haysbert, who plays the president of the United States on the TV show 24 spoke. He was very impassioned and I can’t remember a thing he said except that he was very popular with many of the audience.
6:00 pm - ACLU Awards Dinner
I sat at the dinner with a group of people from Idaho. This included two high school students, Monique and Ridley. It was great to see intelligent young people getting involved. We had fun talking prior to the actual ceremonies.
David Chappelle was the host for the evening and was quite amusing. He was able to give both a funny and serious talk about the evenings award winner, Muhammad Ali. I learned about Ali’s history with the ACLU and I can certainly see why the ACLU created an award named after him: The ACLU Muhammad Ali Champion of Liberty Award for Heavyweights in the Arts, Business, Science, and Sports.
There was one article in the newspaper that I saw on Thursday: