Uniting America: Springfield pt. 2

March 01, 2012
Kathleen O'Donovan Uniting America AmeriCorps Fellow

 

On February 29th I had my first opportunity to go to Springfield with ICIRR.  In the office we had been talking about Springfield for weeks prior to the event, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I awoke at 5:00am, still unsure of what to expect. I headed off promptly at 5:50 to meet the people I would be riding with from Northwestern. For mini vans left from Northwestern and I was in a van with one Northwestern student and 5 community members from a local group called The Immigration Advocacy Project. 

As Uniting America fellows we decided to try and visit all 177 representatives and senators in Springfield. We brought them plates of multicultural sweets in order to spread the word about Uniting America. Many legislators were either in session or eating lunch, so in many cases I left information with their secretaries. I was able to talk to several representatives who were eating lunch because I was conveniently bringing them dessert.  I was very surprised at how accessible our legislators are. I came into their offices without an appointment and was able to speak to some of them. They were very positive and receptive to what I had to say. It felt like I had a voice; it was great to be able to communicate the vision for Uniting America to so many important decision makers.

On my way home I got a chance to talk with some different people on my van. I spoke with one man, Lee, who had just moved from China to the US only 3 months ago. His English was limited, but he is trying very hard to learn. He said that being a part of this action was one of the first great experiences he has had since moving to America. Talking with Lee through a combination of hand gestures, broken English, and mutual laughter was a great way to end my day.

ICIRR had a turnout of over 1,100 people in Springfield. The most important part was that our collective voice was heard loud and clear. We went and made an impact. My first trip down to Springfield was positive and empowering. I would urge people who have never been to consider going with ICIRR on future trips.