Lobby Day 2010

Claire KeaneAs a student in the Preservation Law and Planning (IAR 625) course, I had the irreplaceable opportunity to travel to Washington, DC and lobby for historic preservation. In the weeks preceding the much-anticipated Lobby Day in DC, my classmates and I spent many hours getting to know the North Carolina congressional districts and their congressmen. I felt the pressure while preparing for this big day because funding for Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America, two very important preservation programs, was zeroed out in the proposed budget for 2010.

The first exciting aspect of this trip was the opportunity to stay with Carol Shull, the Keeper of the National Register. Carol and her husband Joe opened their home to five of my classmates and myself, and we were welcomed to Arlington, VA with open arms. I would not trade the three nights I spent by the fire with Carol and my classmates talking about preservation, school, and life in general for anything. It was such an inspiration to have the opportunity to talk with such a leading preservationist.

The day before Lobby Day, my classmates and I attended Advocacy Training to learn about the key issues we should discuss with our congressmen. In addition to preparing me for Lobby Day with some important information about a few bills being sponsored and the budget proposal, the sessions at the advocacy training taught me a lot about the legal process and the importance of communicating with congressmen about issues that are important to you. I think the most educational part of the day was when four congressional aids talked about the bills pertaining to preservation that the congressmen they worked for were sponsoring. We ended the day with a group dinner with all nine students and our two professors, Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll and Autumn Rierson Michael. It was a great dinner full of good conversation and laughs, and it was a really great opportunity so spend some time with my professors and classmates outside of the classroom.

I have to admit that I had butterflies in my stomach in the morning of Lobby Day. Although my knowledge and passion for preservation have grown abundantly since I started in the graduate program, the political realm these meetings were in had me nervous. Luckily, the first meeting of the day was a great warm up because the staff member we met with was not well informed about preservation, but he was very open to learning about it. Because he was so receptive, I felt comfortable talking about the sustainable aspects of preservation. As the day carried on, I had the opportunity to meet three representatives: Heath Shuller, Brad Miller, and G.K. Butterfield. I also experienced a range of meetings: some went really well; a couple staffers were not very receptive; and some we just thanked for their continued support for preservation.

I began the day with a nervous stomach and ended it thankful for such a great learning experience. This opportunity taught me more than I expected about preservation’s reception in the political world. I now feel confident in advocating for preservation from a political perspective. Even though I was hesitant, I am very grateful for the opportunity to go to the Hill and talk with my congressmen about what I have become so very passionate about: historic preservation.