This past Thursday, I had quite a ball on the Hill with my co-workers distributing letters that asked our Representatives in the House to sign onto HR 1844, the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act, if they have not done so already. As of today, the bill has 41 cosponsors. The Advocacy Director, two other interns and myself were tasked with distributing 390+ letters to three buildings of the House, the Longworth, Cannon, and Rayburn buildings. I was simply asking the staffers and interns at the front desk of each House Representative’s office to pass the letter along to the representative and their legislative assistant for health. One will notice that the entrance to each Representative’s office is marked by a bronze seal of the state he or she represents, an American Flag to one side, and the state flag to the other. Also, as one nice staffer informed us, we don’t have to knock on the doors to these offices. Simply come in, even if the door is closed. The offices are very constituent friendly and rightfully so.
Some moments worth mentioning:
- I delivered the letter addressed to Rep. Nancy Pelosi to her office. There was something exciting about saying, “I am with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. Could you please pass this letter along to our Madam Speaker?”
- I was especially excited to drop off a letter to Jerrold Nadler, my representative from NY-8. I felt proud to tell the representatives I was a fellow Bay Ridge, New Yorker from Rep. Nadler’s district. It was also a good plug in for the bill as well.
- I was taken off guard in one office when I realized two seconds too late that the representative–forgot which state—actually started talking to me. Embarrassment? Yes. Could I have avoided it? No, because 1) our government is too dang large and complicated for any citizen to know who each representative is, 2) he is not the representative of my district, and 3) I was telling to the staffer, “Pass this letter on to the representative” while the representative was looking at me from the side. These are some of the times in life where you can just laugh at yourself inside.
- I was walking up and down the halls of the Rayburn building playing “Guess How Weird the Rayburn Rooms Are Ordered.” At last, I walked into Room 2354 for District NY-15.
“Hi, how are you?” I said to the staffer and intern talking to each other at the front desk.
“Hi,” said the intern.
“Could you please pass this letter along to Representative Charles B. Rangel asking him to support H.R. 1844? It’s for the Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act. I’m with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and we’d appreciate his support for this bill.”
“Sure, I’ll be sure to pass it along.”
“Thanks, I’m also a fellow New Yorker. I’m a student in the district where Representative Rangel serves, the City College of New York. I was a recipient of a Charles B. Rangel Scholarship, and…”
The staffer and intern both exclaimed, “Oh, how great!”
“I just wanted you to pass along my thanks.”
The staffer says, “Why do that when you can write a letter to him yourself?” She passes me a notepad and pen with a smile. The intern takes a call. The staffer amusingly starts pretending as though she were writing the letter out loud. “Dear Mr. Rangel, I wanted to say how honored I am to be writing to you and that it’s so wonderful to receive a scholarship from you….” An exchange of laughs and giggles.
I started writing, “Dear Mr. Rangel, thank you for all the hard work you have done. I am a recipient of the Charles B. Rangel Scholar-”
The intern gets off the phone and tells me, “Oh never mind, he’s coming down the hall write now. You can thank him personally.” She takes the pad and pen away from me.
“Oh! Ok!” I replied.
The staffer and intern giggle.
I am staring at the front door when a man in a raspy voice smiles and exclaims, “HELLO, HOW ARE YOU SON?!”
The staffer and intern tell Mr. Rangel that I was a Rangel scholar and I was just about to write a letter thanking him.
“Ah, we love having these scholars here!”
I give him my thanks and he asks what I am doing this summer.
“Working for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, sir.”
“Ah, wonderful! But maybe we’ll have to take you away from that when we get you here in the office.”
We exchange some chuckles.
Mr. Rangel starts talking about the bill he sponsored to honor Korean War veterans with a National War Korean Armistice Day on July 27. A Korean War veteran, Representative Rangel asks another staffer to recall a Korean song he was familiar with. He starts humming the song and looks at me while he is doing it. I am all smiles at that point.
We bid our farewells. I thank the intern and staffer and I continued with my route along the confusing Rayburn building floor.
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