Why Town Halls Matter
It’s often hard to secure a one-on-one conversation with your member of Congress. An excellent alternative is to attend and participate in a town hall meeting.
A longstanding tradition in the U.S., town halls are a way for elected officials to listen and respond to their constituents. As a constituent, you hold a great deal of power: Town halls are one of the most effective ways to wield it.
What to expect
Legislators sometimes arrive early to town halls to speak with constituents one-on-one. There will be a lot of people vying for their attention. Arriving early improves your chances of having a more personal conversation about your issues. You can also use this time to sign up to ask a question during the town hall’s question-and-answer period.
Town hall meetings generally begin with the legislator giving a speech or set of informal remarks. This is immediately followed by the question-and-answer session. The legislator usually stays afterward to speak with constituents individually. Consider bringing factsheets or issue briefs (located here under Issue Summaries) in case you’re able to speak with your legislator or his/her staff.
The reason that legislators hold town hall meetings is that they want to hear your opinions and thoughts. The best thing you can do at a town hall is speak on an issue close to you and craft a question that will force your member of Congress to consider your position and respond. Your personal story is very valuable. It’s exactly how sometimes formal policy is connected to real people. Take the mic and explain why your legislator needs to act in your best interests.
For ophthalmology, you can discuss a policy that impacts your patients, your practice, the people you employ and your ability to provide quality medical and surgical eye care.
When you are called to ask your question, you may want to:
- Stand up and state your name, town of residence and occupation.
- Thank the legislator for holding the town hall meeting.
- Give some context and ask your question.
- Thank the member for answering your question.
- Find out when and where your member of Congress’ next town hall will be held. You can find that information by visiting townhallproject.com.
- Spread the word. Tell everyone you can — including the Academy — about the event on social media and elsewhere. If you’re going with a group of colleagues, get together before the event to coordinate what you’re going to say.
- Develop a list of questions to ask during the event. The Academy is happy to assist you in drafting questions.
- During the town hall, be polite yet persistent. Show your approval or disapproval as appropriate.
- Thank your member of Congress for their time and encourage them to schedule more town halls.
- There may be media on hand during the town hall. Introduce yourself to your local reporters and establish a relationship with them. They might not have an immediate interest in your issues, but you are one step closer to building a relationship that can pay dividends at a later date.
- Share your story. Let your patients and the Academy know what you did. Post pictures and videos to your webpage or social media accounts. Share your thoughts about the town hall, your lawmaker’s response, what you think the next steps should be, etc. Tag your lawmaker in your social media posts to stay on their radar and encourage your colleagues to share widely. Tag the Academy’s social media channels as well:
- Keep your Academy in the loop. Send pictures, videos and event feedback to Megan Tweed, the Academy’s grassroots coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.