The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to communicate with their elected representatives:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is a right Americans are fortunate to have – and don’t exercise nearly enough. We are cynical and apathetic, or believe that politicians or the poilitical process are so corrupt that it’s not worth their time to petition them. If we behave that way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and things will never change.

Individual involvement in the political process is an important part of a democracy. If citizens do not stand-up and express their concerns and interests, it falls to those who do to influence our leaders. When you are struck by an issue that you feel strongly about, instead of yelling at the TV, radio, or computer screen, take the time to do something constructive and contact the leaders who represent you to let them know how you expect them to act on your behalf.

Get involved and hold our politicians accountable. The tabs at the top of this page make it easy to find contact information for all of your elected officials. Write, e-mail, call, or visit your representatives personally. It seems like a small thing, but politicians need to know that their constituents are paying attention and they do pay attention to the feedback they get.

Things to keep in mind:

1. Have a point. It is important to have a specific purpose and a concise introduction that tells your representative where you stand and how you expect her or him to lead on the issue.

2. Make sure you are in the right place. Expressing your opinion on the 2nd ammendment to a city council member may not make sense (unless, of course, the city council is trying to pass an ordinance prohibiting guns).

3. Show respect and understand that your elected official may be getting feedback that is the exact opposite of yours. It is the responsibility of our elected officials to lead using their own conscience and the committments they have made to their electorate. For every one person who agrees with you, there may be 10 constituents on the other side of the issue and that is something that the elected representative has to consider. Respect the position she or he is in, respect the office she or he holds, and make your argument as persuasively and positively as you can.