From grassroots to government

Nicole Leung, Creative Director

Billionaires, multinational corporations, mega interest groups, and high-powered executives: these are the quintessential sources of political corruption. They employ arguably one of the most demonized professions in politics: lobbyists. And I’m one of them. Except I’m the unpaid kind, an average American-high-school-student lobbyist armed only with endless complaints. Eventually, these grievances pushed me to stop complaining to my classmates and to directly vent my frustrations to my representatives.
In February, when I lobbied for environmental legislature on behalf of the Audubon Society, I didn’t do it just for bird protection and environmental conservation. I lobbied for all my friends who use the outdoors to escape from life’s mercurial tendencies, for access to clean air and water because without good health we have almost nothing, for a kid’s freedom to play outside without fear of toxic chemical runoff. I lobbied for all the skiers, snowboarders, hikers, campers, boaters, fishers, runners, climbers, mountaineers, and casual nature enjoyers.
More often than it’s given credit for, passion will beat money in convincing legislators to fight for your cause. Let’s go back a bit: it’s clear to most representatives why companies and their wealthy investors lobby – money and profit. That’s about it, not much else. Now compare that to a lobbying effort headed by a group of slightly terrified, though passionate teenagers who drove all the way to Olympia not because they were paid to, but because they truly care. As opposed to the constant nagging from professional lobbyists, authentic passion is something money can’t buy.
Surely, my speech wasn’t as eloquent, nor my arguments as persuasive as professional lobbyists’, but there’s something innately impressive about teenagers – particularly from this generation, as we are known for our supposedly childish, narcissistic, and entitled behavior – taking the time to do something besides testing the limits of state and federal laws and generally being unproductive.
And even if no fruitful legislation comes out of my efforts, then I just work harder next time. Lobbying mustn’t be traumatizing or even time-consuming: a simple email will suffice. I know us young people possess enough passion to lead grassroots movements; the omnipresent complaining evidences as much. Now, the next step is to convert that discontentment and frustrations into tangible change.