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Hello Kossacks,
If you don't know me, I'm a high school student from Pennsylvania, and I'm also Jewish.  This weekend, I'm going on a trip with my Hebrew school to Washington DC.  I will meet members of Congress, attend an AIPAC meeting, and generally hang out with a lot of important people and inflating my ego.  But I need your help.  

In the main part of this diary, I have posted some information about what I will be doing and who I will be meeting.  I would like some suggestions about how I can best prepare to push a progressive agenda while I'm there, meeting these important people.

First, I should tell you a bit about my political views:

*I am an ardent environmentalist.  Personally, I helped save my family $900 on our electric bills last year (we don't have natural gas), I only buy organic clothes, over half of the food I eat is organic, I have a vegetable garden, and I will be getting a few chickens for their eggs soon, among other things.

*The issue I am most passionate about is democratic/electoral reform.  I am an advocate of reforming ballot initiative systems (as is being done in Oregon), national ballot initiatives, alternative voting systems like instant runoff voting, the National Popular Vote Plan, fairer ballot access, paper trails for voting, and ending gerrymandering, to name a few things.

*I do not adhere to the views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are common in the section of the Jewish community that I know.  Most Jews I know are unbelievably pro-Israel.  I believe that it is not right to kill thousands of innocent civilians in order to maintain a state that was established in the aftermath of a genocide and established in order to protect innocent civilians who are Jewish.  I am by no means pro-Hamas, but I think that Palestinian and Israeli lives have the same value, and that means that I don't support the recent war in Gaza, which means that I will probably disagree with almost everyone that's with me on this trip.

*I am not a Democrat.  Even though I'm too young to register with a party, in my mind I belong to no party.  While I enjoy spending time on Dailykos, I also write for a third party/independent news site and spend some time on Green Party websites.  I got involved with third parties when Mike Gravel switched to the Libertarian Party - I supported him in the primaries - and I am still active in supporting things that Gravel is associated with.  That goes hand-in-hand with my support of direct democracy.

*If you have any questions about my views, go ahead and ask.

Now, onto the program.  I got an email today that told me a bit about what will be on the agenda and exactly which congresscritters I will be meeting (I'm not sure if I'll get to talk directly to all of them):

*Advocacy & Meetings with Congressional Staff*

It's also a great idea to research the records of your senator and representative, as well as issues that are currently being debated in Washington in preparation for your advocacy during the meetings with your Congressional staff on Wednesday morning.

Below are the scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill:

The Office of Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)

The Office of Senator Robert Casey (D-PA)

The Office of Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

The Office of Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT)

The Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

The Office of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

The office of Representative Pete Visclosky (D-IN)

Now, I don't know much about any of these people.  I know a tiny bit about Bob Casey because he's my Senator, but any relevant information or sources of information that you could provide about any of these people would be greatly appreciated.

As for the issues that we'll be talking about there, if there are any specific things that I should focus on, let me know.  Any info or sources of info on these things would also be greatly appreciated.  AIPAC is the only group I definitely know will be presenting to the group.  There will be other "policy sessions," but I'm not exactly sure what that means.

So, what do you think?  Can you help me?

Originally posted to rossl on Fri Mar 20, 2009 at 01:13 PM PDT.

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