By Vanessa Rastovic
There’s an old saying in politics, “if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” While it’s a harsh thought, it’s nonetheless true. Thomas Jefferson put it more politely when he said, “we don’t have a government of the majority. We have a government of the majority who participate.” While most times participation means voting, there are often times when meaningful participation requires more—especially during times when laws or policies have negative effects. Those are times when, if we don’t self-advocate, someone else will determine how we will be affected—and it may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves.
For those who have never heard the term “self-advocate” before, it simply means to represent yourself and your interests. Although it’s true that our elected officials work for us, they often must choose between competing interests, have misconceptions, or don’t know all the facts. Serbian-Americans are one of many groups who experience this dynamic. Our leaders depend on us, and if we don’t tell our own story, someone else will tell it for us—sometimes with misconceptions, half-truths, or maybe even lies. Self-advocacy simply means telling your story and asking for what you want.
Even better, you don’t have to be a lobbyist to self-advocate. All you need is a little know-how and some courage to speak up for yourself. That’s it!
Here are some easy ways to self-advocate:
• Talk to your friends and neighbors
• Donate a book about Serbian-Americans to your local library there are many good ones about Nikola Tesla or The Forgotten 500 is an exciting true story about a World War II rescue mission in Serbia
• Write a letter to the editor of your local or regional newspaper
• Get your lodge to organize a “post-card campaign” to your elected official
• Call, email, or write a polite and short letter to your elected leaders asking clearly for what you want.
• Tweet, post, blog, vlog. . . you get the idea!
The most important thing to remember when self-advocating if that you catch more flies with honey! Resist the urge to get upset or lecture if it seems like you’re getting resistance—with some folks it just takes time.
Full article in Liberty