Visiting Congress to Talk About Education Was Easier Than I Thought

Can one parent’s voice make a difference?

I know how powerful many voices put together can be. Last September I watched the Science of Dyslexia hearing in Congress. I saw people who care about dyslexia come to Capitol Hill. I saw them raise awareness and make a difference.

Then, a few weeks ago, I had the chance to see if my one voice could make a difference on Capitol Hill.

Two of my children have learning and thinking differences. So I’m always paying attention to what’s going on at a national level that may affect them. One thing that I’ve been watching is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also called No Child Left Behind. Congress is now rewriting this law.

Some of the changes proposed by Congress worry me. I want to make sure my kids have the same learning opportunities as their peers. 

These things were already on my mind when I got a call from Understood founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities. They told me that congressional representatives from Maine wanted to talk to a parent from the state. I jumped at the chance to be that parent.

I’m so glad I did. It was humbling and slightly daunting to walk through the halls of the Senate and House of Representatives buildings.

It was a busy day. I visited the offices of Senator King, Senator Collins and Representative Poliquin. (They represent Maine in Congress.) Right away, I knew my trip to DC was the right thing to do. Here’s why:

  • My members of Congress wanted to hear from me. Once I started talking about my concerns, I realized quickly I was being heard. Each of their offices has an education staffer. Their job is to keep up on the issues and how they impact the people in their state.
  • My voice and opinions mattered. When I spoke about my children, they listened. They took notes. They asked questions to make sure they understood what I was saying.

I was a little surprised at how easy this all was. That is until I realized something: My state’s congressional representatives can’t represent my interests if they don’t know what they are. And they can’t know unless I tell them.

Senator King and I had an especially good conversation about education issues. Afterwards, we talked about people we both know in Maine—and some creative ways to get back home during snowstorms. As we spoke, he said something that really stuck with me. “Maine is really just a big city with long streets,” he joked.

He’s right—Maine is a small state. It’s likely that anyone you meet from Maine is going to know someone who knows someone who knows you. But small can be powerful.

And while you may think your lone voice is small, let me tell you it’s not. It’s big and you can use it to make a difference.

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About the author

About the author

Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.