by Marshall E. Purnell, FAIA
AIA First Vice President/President-elect
2007 Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference Chair
One thing you learn living in Washington, D.C., for any length of time: Although words are very important here, of course, it is action that carries the real weight. One of the most important AIA national events each year is the AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference Government Advocacy Day when chapter presidents, presidents-elect, and executives schedule visits with their congressional representatives; prepare with cogent, to-the-point messages; and exercise our First Amendment responsibility of petitioning the government.
This exercise in basic civic responsibility, which has come to be called lobbying, is guaranteed in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Unfortunately, because of the irresponsibility of a few, the concept of lobbying has been encumbered with a number of negative connotations over the years. The great news we bring to the Hill—which our senators, representatives, and congressional staff contacts well appreciate—is that our issues truly serve the public good when we talk about energy efficiency, community building, and historic preservation.
The effort doesn’t stop at the end of Government Advocacy Day, either. I’d like to offer this challenge to every AIA member: Get involved. Go to your town council meetings, get to know your elected officials and their issues, read this week’s issue of AIArchitect and review the AIA positions, and take the time to visit your congressional representatives at their district offices.
We not only have a right, we have a responsibility, an obligation to ensure that our legislators do the right thing, the right thing by us, by our community, and by our country.
What do you think?