February Featured Advocate – Mary O’Connor
By Jonathan Pearson on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Back in December, when we started recruiting participants for the Capitol Hill portion of our National Day of Action, our February Featured Advocate was among the first to respond.
What caught our attention was Mary Beora O’Connor’s brief but heartening e-mail reply: “I love this Action Day!”
So we reached out to this Akron, Ohio resident and three-time Volunteer (Macedonia 2006-08; Peace Corps Response Philippines 2009-10; Macedonia 2012) with a few questions for our feature.
The reply she sent back was so energizing, we decided there was no editing necessary! So we are sharing it with you as an open letter to all our current and future Capitol Hill advocates. Thanks Mary, for making this blog post so easy!
“Advocacy Day is FUN!”
Mary O’Connor and friends during her Peace Corps Response service in the Philippines during 2009-10. An architect, Mary helped with design and construction of a theatre and arts building for the Stairway Foundation, a children’s rights organization.
While I have done my fair share of knocking on doors for causes, charities and candidates over the years, it is not something I could ever describe as enjoyable. But doing the equivalent in the halls of Congress with our elected representatives as an advocate for Peace Corps is a complete joy. This will be my third year in a row and it is my hope to participate every year, migrating to Washington from wherever I happen to live.
My personal commitment to The Peace Corps and the legacy of the program give the conversations with staff and representatives an easy natural flow. The talking points are compelling, of course. But the fundamental virtue is just showing up, just being willing, just sharing the passion. We are not paid professionals with scripts. We are citizens who have been transformed by the experience. Transformed to the extent that we are happy to do the work to keep the Peace Corps strong. And the good news is that the work of Advocacy Day is FUN! It’s a way of catching up with old friends and meeting new friends while doing something. Rather than just reminiscing at the bar (although that happens as well at the end of the day) about our time in the Peace Corps, Advocacy Day is a pathway – taking the past experience of service into present action to ensure its healthy future! I am aware of this unity of time and action the whole day.
NPCA makes it so easy
I urge everyone to participate in this activity on Capitol Hill! There can never be enough of us walking around the miles of offices on this day for Peace Corps. The National Peace Corps Association makes it so easy for us who show up. As citizen volunteer lobbyists, it is very obvious that our status is much different than the professionals making the rounds of the same offices we visit.
The first time I participated in Action Day was during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps. The majority of advocates that year were volunteers from the first years of Peace Corps. I was paired with an older gentleman for the afternoon. With more than 500 of us roaming the hallowed halls of Congress, I was witness to many spontaneous reunions between this vanguard group. The pace and emotion was exhausting, but with each meeting, each mile of corridor traveled, each old friend encountered, my partner became more energized.
And taller. Honestly. By the end of the day, he was not the slightly bent, slightly shuffling person I was paired with in the morning. He was actually taller than I was. At the reception afterward, I was looking upward at the faces in the room, the faces of lives forever changed by their experiences in in the Peace Corps.
Come join us on Capitol as part of the 2014 National Day of Action. You just might add a few inches to your stature!