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How to Become a Representative for Congress
How does one become a representative for Congress? The journey to becoming a Member can be difficult and demanding. However, the privilege to represent one’s country can be very rewarding.

The U.S. Congress is divided into two chambers. The requirements vary by chamber, as do the roles they serve. To become a member of Congress one must first decide whether one wants to serve in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. Once having made this decision, one must meet certain specifications to qualify for office.

How to Become a Representative

  1. Meet the Qualifications
    The U.S. Constitution requires Members of the House be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state–though not necessarily the same district–they represent. Article VI, clause 3 requires that all Members take an oath to support the Constitution before they exercise the duties of their office.The Constitution was deliberately written to make becoming a Member of the House more accessible, to making this chamber closest to the people. Founders wanted it to be possible for ordinary citizens to obtain office and for elections to be frequent.To be eligible for the Senate, candidates must be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years and reside in the state they plan to represent at the time of election.
  2. Identify Key Issues 
    Members of Congress are representatives of their constituents. To become a representative for Congress, potential candidates need to determine and articulate issues that are relevant and important to voters. One must have strong knowledge of current political affairs and one’s stance on current and future policies.
  3. Build a Network
    Connections and relationships are key to running a successful campaign. According to Business Insider, this factor is causing many hopeful millennials to lose congressional races. In a blog post by hopeful House Member Erin Schrode, a 24-year-old activist from Northern California who hoped to be the youngest woman elected to the House, told readers a man told her after voting he would have voted for her instead of the incumbent–had he known who she was. Name recognition is an essential component of a successful campaign.
  4. Fundraise
    Money matters in elections. Funds pay for advertisement, media exposure, branding, letters to potential voters and commercials. While there is no minimum amount required to run for office, more funds equate to better efficiency and exposure.
    Wendy Carillo, a thirty-six-year-old who arrived in America as an undocumented immigrant recently launched a race for Congress. In an interview with Medium, she suggested a candidate should raise at least $100,000 to pay for the “mini enterprise” one creates when running for office.
  5. File Paperwork
    According to BallotPedia, federal law requires all candidates to file a statement of candidacy within 15 days of receiving donations or funding costs for their campaign that exceed $5,000. This is the only part of ballot access that is mandated by federal law. To have one’s name printed on an election ballot, a congressional candidate must do one or both of the following: collect and file petition signatures and/or pay registration fees. Once this is satisfied, requirements vary from state to state.
  6. Campaign
    The final and most crucial task is to campaign. Talk to voters. Learn what matters to them. Appeal to their desires in your language and actions. Congressional candidates can spend up to 18 hours a day campaigning. A successful candidate must know and act on what matters to voters.

Still want to become a representative for Congress after having read up on how to? Stay grounded in the fact that campaigning does not have to be difficult or tiresome. Listening to the needs of constituents and turning them into policies make the work rewarding and gratifying. Our country truly becomes a nation for the people, run by the people when members of Congress remember this principle.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

How to Run for Office
If you feel like you want to make more of an impact in the political sphere outside of advocacy and voting, you may want to consider running for office. There are around 520,000 elective offices in the United States, meaning that more than one out of every thousand people in the U.S. are an elected official.

All citizens of the U.S. have the right to run for political office. If eligible, any average citizen can play a role in the government. However, not many Americans are taking advantage of this right. In 2012, about a third of the candidates running for a state legislative positions ran unopposed.

Many people do not run because they are not sure how to do so. To begin, you can use Run For Office’s website to search for public positions available near you. After you find the right fit, the next step is to run a campaign.

Here are some tips on how to run for office in the United States:

  1. Do plenty of research beforehand. Find out the requirements for the office such as age and residency. Understand how long the term is and what time commitment is required. Find out how much money is generally spent on successful campaigns. Once you understand the position and you feel comfortable that you can fulfill the requirements, you can begin planning your campaign.
  2. Running a campaign is a great deal of work, so you will need a good team behind you. Decide whether you want to be volunteer-based or whether you can hire professional help. Unless you plan on paying for everything, you’ll need to rely on others for fundraising as well. Start with family and friends and build a database of donors and supporters.
  3. In order to make your campaign official, you will need to file for office. You can figure out what the requirements are by filing a seat through your town clerk or Secretary of State. Make a comprehensive list of all the paperwork that needs to be completed, as well as all the deadlines so you stay on track. Look into the financing laws as well.
  4. Decide what you are running for – pick three issues your campaign is going to focus on and what you would want to work towards if you become elected. Then look at your own background and skill set and see how they will assist you in accomplishing your goals. Issue a profile for your campaign, then create an identifiable branding and message that will help people remember you and your views.
  5. Once you feel prepared, announce your intention to run. Preferably, do so with much press. Then you can begin to actively campaign. Go door to door. Print lawn signs. Keep up-to-date social media accounts. Go to events and get your name out there. Prepare a short 30-second appeal and a three-minute speech regarding your campaign and why you are running. Do what you can to publicize yourself and gain support.

Even if you have never held a political position, once you know how to run for office you have the power to do so. If you want to see changes made, if you want to do more for those who don’t have a voice, don’t stand around waiting – run for office.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Unsplash

UN Millenium Development MDGsThe United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000. World leaders and members of the United Nations (UN) gathered at the Millennium Summit to set goals for eradicating world poverty focusing on eight specific aspects of poverty and how it affects people globally.

The campaign concluded in 2015 and at that time data was released to show the progress achieved. The eight UN MDGs are listed below, along with what was achieved in each category, per the results of the 2015 report:

    • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty. The target of this goal was to halve, between 1990 and 2015, both the number of people whose income falls below $1 per day and the number of people suffering from hunger. These goals were largely achieved. The number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced by more than half. The proportion of undernourished people in developing countries fell by nearly half.
    • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education. This goal began with the ambitious target of assuring that both boys and girls everywhere would have access to a full primary education by 2015. Significant strides have been made in this area. The number of out of school children of primary age, globally, dropped from 100 million to 57 million over the course of the MDG campaign.
    • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. The goal, specifically, was to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary education no later than 2015. This was achieved in roughly two-thirds of developing countries.
    • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality. The goal was specifically to reduce the mortality rate of children under 5 by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The rate was not reduced by two-thirds by 2015 but it was more than halved. The 12.7 million deaths in 1990 were reduced to 6 million by 2015.

  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health. The target of this goal was to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. The result was that maternal mortality declined by 45 percent, largely after the year 2000.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases. The primary target named for this goal was to have halted the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, and to have begun its reversal. Cases of new HIV infections fell by 40 percent between 2000 and 2013, and there was an immense increase in the number of people who had access to the drugs that combat HIV. Additionally, the mortality rate due to malaria dropped by 58 percent, and 900 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets were distributed in affected areas.
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Stability. This goal was to “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.” Results included 1.9 billion people gaining access to piped drinking water between 1990 and 2015 and 90 percent of ozone-depleting materials being eliminated in countries included in the campaign.
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development. Financial assistance by developed countries increased from $81 billion in 2000 to $135 billion in 2014. This is a 66 percent increase.

In many cases, the UN MDGs were achieved. Where they were not, great strides were still made towards achieving the goals. Some have criticized the campaign for falling short of its stated goals. But the data shows significant progress made for each one.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

a Highly Successful Advocate
A successful advocate stirs up support for policies, legislation and public causes through civil education, awareness campaigns and lobbying with key decision-makers.

Here are five things that can make any advocacy campaign more effective:

1. Understanding Your Cause
A highly successful advocate understands the ins and outs of their cause. In order to speak passionately and authoritatively on an issue for which you are advocating, you must ensure that you read up on it, interact with people who understand and have experienced it and keep abreast of current affairs related to it.

Advocacy is a full-time job and whenever you are interacting with other people or legislators, you have an opportunity to tell them about your campaign, so it really helps if you can converse comfortably about it.

2. Creating Public Awareness
A cause that people know nothing about is doomed to fail.

A highly successful advocate must, therefore, mount vigorous awareness campaigns around their cause. In this day and age of information proliferation through the Internet, social media has become one of the best ways to reach out to more people instantaneously. Creating online petitions and being very active on social media sites is a great way for an advocate to engage followers.

Writing letters to editors of different newspapers is another means of putting your cause in the limelight. It is also important to blog and consistently publish articles around issues or legislation you are supporting. A successful advocate will also ensure that they network with people who are supporters of the cause.

3. Consistently Calling and Emailing Congressional Leaders
Did you know that every time you call or email your congressional leaders in support of a piece of legislation, it is recorded and viewed by your elected official every week?

Most legislators want to know as many of their constituents’ issues as possible; therefore, to be a successful advocate, you must set aside time each week to consistently call and email legislators to tell them about the cause you support.

4. Meeting Elected Officials
According to the American Planning Association, meeting in person with elected leaders or their legislative staff is one of the most effective means of political advocacy.

When going for lobbying meetings, it is important that you are well prepared in advance by knowing the specific problem you want to tackle and requesting a specific action or solution from the representative that you are meeting. You should also demonstrate that the issue you are presenting has an organized group of supporters.

After the visit, ensure that you follow up by sending a thank-you note and tracking how the legislator responds to the issue.

5. Fundraising
A highly successful advocate ensures that they are not strapped for cash when running their campaigns. It is important, therefore, to raise the capital that will allow you to regularly meet elected officials and key decision-makers, make phone calls and generally support overhead costs required to run your advocacy campaign.

– June Samo

Sources: American Planning Association, Government and Community Relations, Salsa, TASCO, The Advocacy Project, WFP
Photo: Flickr

world_aids_day
As World AIDS Day 2014 fast approaches, organizations strive to promote awareness and support for the cause. Led by groups such as the World Health Organization, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 each year. This year’s campaign aims to promote social change and focuses on closing the access gap to important treatment.

Over 39 million people have lost their lives to HIV over the last few decades, and an estimated 35 million people were living with the disease in 2013. World AIDS Day is intended to pay homage to those who have died while advocating awareness and support for an HIV-free future.

The 2014 campaign asserts that closing the gap in HIV testing accessibility would help 19 million unknowingly affected people receive care and support. Additionally, the 35 million HIV-positive people across the world would gain access to vital medicine.

The campaign also aims to allow for children to receive better access to HIV treatment, as currently only 24 percent are able to receive care.

Organizations declare that by closing the access gap, the world could see an end to the AIDS pandemic by the year 2030.

The WHO plans to honor World AIDS Day by releasing new information and recommendations to assist countries in their progress toward HIV prevention and treatment. The new WHO guidelines will cover recommended use of antiretroviral drugs for those that have been exposed to HIV including healthcare professionals, sex workers and rape victims. The manual will also include information regarding the treatment of infections and diseases that can be detrimental to HIV patients.

For the last several years, the WHO has been a strong advocate of antiretroviral, or ARV drug treatment for HIV infections. The latest statement reported, “The ARV regimens now available, even in the poorest countries, are safer, simpler, more efficacious and more affordable than ever before.”

As World AIDS Day approaches, many are showing their support for the cause and the 2030 virus-free goal. Leader of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, states, “With collective and resolute action now and a steadfast commitment for years to come, an AIDS-free generation is indeed within reach.”

However, WHO officials urge that there is still a great deal of work to be done in order for these treatments to become accessible to communities in need. Officials hope that the new HIV guidelines will help to close the gap in prevention and treatment for everyone affected.

In honor of World AIDS Day 2014, many companies are providing special offers that allow for proceeds to go toward the fight against AIDS. The (RED) campaign has partnered with businesses including the Apple Store, Starbucks, CocaCola, Bank of America and many more to raise awareness and gain support for the cause.

Getting involved this holiday season, either by participating in the campaign or helping as a consumer, can make an enormous difference in the future of our world.

– Megan Douches

Photo: World Aid Day UN AIDS, WHO
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Global Poverty Lose Weight Diet
Trying to lose weight? Well, you aren’t alone. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the obesity rate in the Unites States doubled amongst adults between 1980 and 2000. This means that 30% of the adult population is considered obese. Due to the obesity epidemic in our nation, programs like Weight Watchers have sprung up in efforts to help those who suffer from obesity.

Celebrities like Tina Fey, Jenny McCarthy, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson, and Charles Barkley all attribute significant weight loss to their involvement in the Weight Watcher program. The Weight Watchers program has reached far beyond the borders of our innovative country. There are now millions of men and women around the world who use the Weight Watchers program.

 Losing weight and being healthy are enough of an incentive for many to join the program. However, Weight Watchers has recently included one more incentive. Through their Lose for Good campaign, members can lose weight while also helping people around the world who are in need.

Beginning September 15 and ending October 12, Weight Watchers will donate the cost of a pound of food, up to $500.00, for every pound members lose. It is estimated that during the six-week campaign members will lose up to four million pounds. Weight Watchers will donate up to $1 million to their partners, Action Against Hunger and Share Our Strength®, who both fight global poverty.

The Lose for Good campaign also benefits local food banks. Members are encouraged to donate one pound of canned food for every pound they lose throughout the campaign.

Since its inception in 2008, the Lose for Good campaign has contributed $5 million to combating global hunger and chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, the Weight Watchers members have donated 5.7 million pounds of food to local food banks.

According to the United Nations, nearly 21,000 people die worldwide every day of hunger and hunger related causes. The Lose for Good campaign, through the Weight Watchers members, are making a significant difference to feed the world’s hungry.

What can you do?

1. I need to lose weight, and I am a Weight Watchers member:

– Great! Join the Lose for Good campaign and get started.

 

2. I need to lose weight, but I am not a member of Weight Watchers:

You have some options…..

– Consider becoming a Weight Watchers member and join the Lose for Good campaign.

– Approach your current nutrition program or gym about initiating something similar to the Lose for Good campaign for its members and participate in it.

– Start your own six-week weight loss program and include a component that benefits the world’s hungry. Invite friends and family to join!

– Set a six-week weight loss goal and donate money to an organization fighting global poverty at the end of the six weeks. Consider donating to the Borgen Project.

 

3. I don’t need to lose weight.

– The Lose for Good campaign has taken something most every American is working on, and turned it into a way to help the world’s poor. Their approach is weight loss. Congratulations for achieving and maintaining your weight loss goal! What other activities are you involved in that can be turned into a way to fight global poverty? Pick a current hobby, make some goals, invite people to join you, and before you know it, your efforts will help feed the world’s hungry.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: Action Against Hunger, Ventura County Star, CDC, Weight Watchers, Poverty.com
Photo: MNN

Matt_Damon_Toilet_Strike_Clean_Water_Sanitation_Borgen_Project_Whitney_Michelle_Whitney_Wyszynski

Dear Toilet,

It’s not you. It’s us.

Sincerely,

Matt Damon

Matt Damon broke up with his toilet…well at least until everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The Oscar-winning actor and co-founder of Water.org announced his toilet strike in a comedic video.

The video is a staged press conference with prominent comedians. It highlights society’s ignorance of the world water crisis and underappreciation of toilets. 780 million people lack access to clean water.

Damon mentions how the toilet has saved more lives than any other invention, yet 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets or basic sanitation.  More people own cell phones than toilets. The “Matt Damon Toilet Strike” is designed to be less about him and more about people who lack the luxury of clean sanitation.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson released a statement that the world water crisis is something people “don’t like to talk about.” The United Nations aims to double the number of people with toilets by 2015.

The organization’s long-term plan is to “eliminate the practice of open defecation” by 2025.  This practice makes unsanitary water the number one killer of people worldwide.  In fact, children under the age of five are most likely to die from diarrhea-related diseases.

Water.org traded the traditional public service announcement model in hopes of creating a viral frenzy.

“If Sarah Silverman and I can generate millions of views on YouTube for something ridiculous, then we should be able to do better for one of the most important and solvable issues of our time,” Damon said.

The nonprofit has “been toying with [the idea of comedic videos] for a couple of years.”  Damon and the rest of Water.org believe viral videos can “generate new levels of awareness and participation in the cause.”

The announcement video is the first of 12 videos. The strike campaign’s other videos include: Damon breaking up with his toilet, other celebrities joining the strike, and John Elerick fighting to outdo Damon.  The video was filmed for free at YouTube’s L.A. studios as YouTube works to educate nonprofits about best practices for video campaigns.

Jessica Mason, YouTube spokeswoman, understands that views should not be the main concern for non-profits. “We want to help nonprofits raise awareness and turn that awareness into action.”

Water.org will continue using social media to further awarness.  The website features extensive social media integration.  It asks visitors to “lend” their social media accounts and allow Water.org to publish automatically until World Toilet Day on November 9, 2013.

For more information, visit strikewithme.org or tweet questions with #strikewithme.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Strike With Me