Bolder Advocacy

Advocacy As a Patriotic Duty

Pat Libby is the author of The Lobbying Strategy Handbook: 10 steps for advancing any cause effectively (SAGE Publications, 2012), from which this column is adapted. Libby is also a clinical professor and director of the Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research, University of San Diego. 

Independence Day means a lot of things to people.

A day off from work, a day to relax with family flagand friends, a day to watch a few fireworks or light some sparklers, go to the beach, maybe march in a parade or cheer one from the sidelines. A day too, to think about how much freedom we enjoy as Americans.

At the risk of stating the obvious, lately there’s been a lot of dissent in legislatures across the country. Whether in the halls of Congress, on the floor of state legislatures, or at local city halls, people are arguing fiercely about their vision for the future of America. The arguments are loud, heated, passionate and sometimes downright offensive. They spill out onto the airwaves of talk radio and TV, splash across the Internet, and often, make us cringe.

Yet if we tune them out, we tune out our opportunity to participate in the political process and to influence things in ways that advance our own vision for America. 

For example, right now the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican on the committee, are in the beginning stages of creating legislation for a new tax code. They’ve announced that their process will begin with a “blank slate” that will eliminate all current deductions, exclusions and credits. Their idea is for their senate colleagues to make a case about why each of these deductions is important as a way of justifying why they should be included in the tax code.

This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill discussion about taxes. It is a discussion about what we value as Americans. 

Is it important that all charitable contributions to nonprofits continue to be tax-exempt?

Is it important that low-income families have access to the Earned Income Tax Credit?

These items and others are threatened. They may indeed be reduced or eliminated.

We need to act.

I often speak about lobbying as being a patriotic duty for nonprofit organizations. If we care about our country, and I believe we do because so many of us are involved in helping to make it a better place, then we need to let our voices be heard. We need to get involved because it matters for the work we do and the people we serve.

The other day at the dry cleaner, I met a woman who had spent two years imprisoned in Iran where she was frequently tortured. Her crime: fighting for a democratic society.

Let’s not take for granted the freedom we have in this country. The discourse may get ugly, but at least we have the opportunity to publicly fight for what we believe is important and right.