Happening Now

The Stories That Make a Difference

January 9, 2019

Grassroots Rail Advocacy

By Carolyn Cokley

Advocacy is defined as an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems and institutions. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, publishing research, conducting exit polls or the filing of an amicus brief.

But, what happens when, you withdraw from and are not a part of that public voice, or you feel that you are not equipped to launch a public media campaign. How do you gather friends, neighbors and other advocates (while they may not know if yet) to rally behind the cause that is equally important to them?

This week a story was shared with me concerning how one of our long-standing members started out as a rail advocate.

“…Back in the day, before I had even heard of NARP, Reagan proposed zeroing out ATK funding. I borrowed a folding card table and chair, got some butcher's paper for a sign, and sat in front of the Mountain View, CA Co-op Grocery Store (where I shopped) for a couple of weeks, soliciting signatures on a petition asking my Congressman, Pete McCloskey, to oppose that effort. After I got a few hundred signatures, without an appointment I walked into McCloskey's local office, asked to see the staffer that was responsible for transportation, and presented him with the petitions. After he picked his jaw up off the floor, he asked me who I was (me), what organization I was with (none), and why I did this (because I could, and it was important to me). After that, I was the go-to guy for rail issues for his office. The rest is history.”

These stories are important. They define why we do what we do and in sharing them, they speak to the needs of fellow travelers and may empower one or two to speak up, join in and impact the discussion.

Amtrak is currently taking applications for their Social Media Residency Program, #AmtrakTakeMeThere. This program aims to showcase how people from different walks of life travel by rail. By way of social media, chosen residents will share their individual experiences aboard Amtrak’s long-distance trains while engaging users through their respective online communities. The deadline for applications is Thursday, January 31, 2019. So, if you are interested, have a creative streak, possess the passion, energy and know-how that it will take to connect in and to your social media community, I encourage you to apply.

Thank you, Harvard.