Although there are terrifying things occurring in this country, and many politicians in D.C. are destroying our democratic institutions, my recent talks reminded me of how powerful (in a positive way) our institutions can be – if supported and operated properly – for average Americans. It was also an important reminder that, while there are plenty of politicians to blame, government is not the problem. It’s outside influence that has corrupted our democratic system. That’s the problem.
I reconnected with a number of folks whom I’ve already met with. Those meetings were rewarding, because they were longer (one lasted over an hour), and I felt that wonderful sense of familiarity – we both felt that way, or so it seemed. I value those relationships and those offices enormously. These people and their bosses are definitely concerned about student loan debtors, and AEM’s mission.
I also met with a lot of new folks, and I look forward to meeting up with them again in late October.
Here are just the highlights of a very busy trip:
Folks on the Hill
- I had a long and productive conversation with the higher ed staffer in Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office (D-MI; @stabenow). It was great to have the opportunity to discuss the student lending crisis. It was made clear to me that it is important that we - as student loan debtors - continue to reach out to our leaders in D.C. Stabenow's office is listening, so folks in MI make note of that.
- I met with Congressman Hansen Clarke’s office (D-MI; @RepHansenClarke). This was a fantastic talk. They appreciated my analysis about their boss’s call for loan forgiveness. The plans coming out of this office will be worth following, and AEM will certainly keep you abreast on future developments. Hopefully, I will be able to meet Congressman Clarke in late October.
- AEM also had its first visit with a Republican’s office! On August 23rd, I met with Congressman Tom Petri’s (R-WI) staffer. (Incidentally, Congressman Petri does not have a twitter account, but he can be found on Facebook here - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Petri-Thomas-E-Congressman/168372879840130). We had a fantastic conversation. It was disrupted when the earthquake struck, and we went running for the marble doorways in Rayburn. However, we continued our discussion after we were evacuated from the building. The talk was one of my favorites, and I really appreciated the staffer’s take on the student loan debt problem. The discussion about solutions was pragmatic, and that gave me a great deal of hope. I am excited about forging a strong relationship with this office.
- I had a number of other meetings scheduled on the 23rd, but they were cancelled after the quake. Luckily, that didn’t preclude me from rescheduling. I was able to meet with a staffer in Congressman Hank Johnson’s (D-GA) the next day, and that was a lively talk. That office is enthusiastic about my work, and I hope to meet Congressman Johnson when I return to DC in late October. (His twitter handle is @RepHankJohnson, and his staff’s is @Hankstaffers – they are both very receptive on twitter, and that’s awesome ).
As many of you know, I delivered several documents to these offices. The first one outlines the history of AEM. The other piece, “Higher Education Finance Reform: Accomplishments + Multi-Solution Approach to Truly Tackling the Student Lending Crisis,” is 4 pages long, and broken into three categories:
I. Accomplishments – things the administration and government have done to help current borrowers
II. Propose Legislation
III. New Proposals
- I also delivered a testimonial from a student debtor in the Sacramento area to Senator Boxer’s (D-CA; @SenatorBoxer) office and Congresswoman Doris Matsui’s (D-CA; @DorisMatsui) office.
When I return to DC in late October, I will have a different proposal that will be bolder. I encourage you all to provide me with feedback and suggestions. After all, AEM is about your voices. So if you have ideas that could be applied to legislation, let me know by emailing me here: ccrynjohannsen (at) gmail (dot) com. As you’ll see in the last section of the proposal, there are ideas from a number of people, including Bob Krause (@KrauseForIowa), who has already had an illustrious political career and isn't done yet! Again, ideas come out from the creative collective, and that is how things truly get accomplished and problems are solved. They aren’t devised in one person’s brain. AEM serves as a meeting point for all kinds of folks who are eager to solve this serious problem together.
I also had the pleasure of meeting with folks who are part of two of my favorite non-profits. The first meeting was with a great person who is at SparkAction.org (@sparkaction). (Pssst! If you haven’t signed up for their newsletter yet, check ‘em out!) I also had breakfast with Raymar Hampshire, the CEO & Co-founder of SponsorChange.org (@sponsorchange). I have known Raymar and his crew for over 2 years. I recall talking to him in S. Korea and saying, “we’ll meet at some point. I am not sure when, but I’m determined to meet you.” So, it finally happened, and in the right place, too. I am excited about all the great work Sponsor continues to do, and I look forward to seeing where they head in the next few years. (Pssst! Again, if you haven’t explored Sponsor, I encourage you to do so now).
Well, that pretty much sums up my trip to DC. As I have already said, it was enormously productive and memorable. I am excited about returning in late October. With your support, it will be possible to cover the cost of metro and food. So, if you can, I hope you’ll pitch in a few bucks. Every dollar counts!
Hopefully there won't be an earthquake, and I won't feel like I'm fleeing a hurricane when I depart this time around.
“Now Is The Time to Invest in Current Borrowers,” AEM (Sept. 1, 2011)
“Part I: An Earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and AEM's Successful Trip To D.C.,” AEM (Aug. 25, 2011)
“Document Diary: Deliveries To Folks on the Hill,” AEM (Aug. 26, 2011)
“Leaving DC, And Already Planning A Return Trip,” AEM (Aug. 26, 2011)
“Rep Hansen Clarke's Call for Loan Forgiveness,” AEM (July 29, 2011)
“Rep. Hansen Clarke: Congress should cut and cap mortgages and forgive student loans to create jobs,” AEM (July 20, 2011)