NO APOLOGIES PLEASE
I’d like to relate an experience I had 13 years ago while lobbying in Illinois for an open records bill. Many of you may have heard it before, but please stick with me.
There were three of us that day and we were sitting in the office of a very senior Illinois State Senator. After some polite discussion, the Senator stood up behind her desk, looked us right in the eyes and pronounced, “Civil rights? You don’t have any civil rights. We already gave you your civil rights when your mothers didn’t want you.”
At that moment in time, I felt crushed. How could anyone say such a thing? I wanted to cry and most of all, I wanted to get the hell out of that office before any one of us said something we thought we might be sorry for later. Our perception was that this woman would never change her mind and we didn’t want to spend another minute in her presence. But what did our speedy retreat tell this woman? It told her that she was right and that we were sorry.
When I related this story to my friends on the Internet, everyone was outraged and angry and sympathetic. Imagine an elected official saying something like that!
But here comes the best part of the story, the part I never told anyone before.
One person, Damz, reacted differently. She told me that if it were her, she would have left the office and gone immediately to the press room in the capital building, grabbed the first reporter she could get,and held an immediate press conference.
Can you see the different paradigms we were operating in? My mindset was shame and fear. My response was to retreat. Damz saw this situation in an entirely different light. Her response was to demand justice. She wouldn’t have “apologized.”
We all need to develop a paradigm of “We demand justice!” The birth certificates that are being withheld from us do not belong to the state or our parents – they belong to US. It is our human and civil right to have our original birth certificate. We are the most important persons in the whole adoption system– not any parents, lawyers, agencies, social workers, ad infinitum.
Don’t apologize for your bill, not even subconsciously. If it’s a good bill, then it is well-worth fighting for.You have to believe in your bill 100%. Just because some legislators aren’t going to like it doesn’t mean that i isn't a good bill and it can’t get passed. There will always be opposition but if you know in your heart how good your bill is, you just keep on fighting for it. Get the other side to change their minds.
Strategizing is important, of course, but I know from personal experience that if you start out with a mindset consisting of concerns about how you might change your bill to satisfy reluctant legislators, you’re half way to defeat on day one. You’ve already begun apologizing.
I have to tell you that 13 years ago I was intimidated by legislators and I was afraid of them too. Yep, that’s right – they scared me before I ever met them face to face. I went into too many meetings and legislator's offices with an attitude of wanting "to please everyone." I wish I could have been stronger when facing down an opponent. I wish I hadn’t been intimidated simply by virtue of their position in life. In my mind, they were “important” and I wasn’t.
We were defeated in Illinois, and looking back, I guess I would have done a lot of things differently. But the most memorable experience I bring away with me is that you have to totally believe in yourself and in your bill. Don’t apologize. Why should you? You know that your bill is just fine the way it is.
So please listen to this old grannie. HOW you think about yourself and your bill is everything. YOU are important – just as important as any elected official. Your BILL is important. It will restore to adopted men and women a right that the state stole from you years ago. It will make things whole again.