When was the last time you contacted a legislator?
Or, more importantly, do you know who your representative in the U.S. House is?
I’m guessing that the majority of our readers do. But if you don’t, you’re probably not alone.
A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 66 percent of Americans could name their governor. What makes that an even more disappointing statistic is that it’s a decline from 1989, when Pew found that 74 percent knew their governor.
The results on knowledge of the current vice president were similar: Back in ’89, 74 percent could come up with Dan Quayle; in ’07, 69 percent could name Dick Cheney.
So despite the fact that we’re now constantly connected to the Internet and have many 24-hour cable news channels to choose from, we may be less informed on our political leaders.
As Pew put it in the ’07 report: “The coaxial and digital revolutions and attendant changes in news audience behaviors have had little impact on how much Americans know about national and international affairs.”
A call to action
Considering this disheartening bit of information, it’s inspiring to see people get involved in the political process by reaching out to our nation’s elected officials.
Such has been the case recently in the school bus industry. In December, members of the American School Bus Council (ASBC) met in Washington, D.C., with legislators and federal agency staff to present an innovative plan.
The idea is to create a federally-funded, two-year public education campaign to promote greater use of school buses.
A letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was drafted, outlining the safety, environmental and financial benefits of utilizing school buses, and asking him to dedicate agency funding for the campaign.
But before sending the letter to LaHood, ASBC sought support from Congress. And to do that, folks from all across the pupil transportation community had to get on board and pitch in.
ASBC and the key associations involved in it — the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) — asked their members to contact their U.S. representatives and senators, urging them to sign the letter to LaHood.
E-mails were sent to legislators’ transportation aides, and follow-up phone calls were made. In the end, an impressive total of 49 members of the House of Representatives and eight senators signed the letter.
After the message was sent to LaHood, ASBC secured a meeting in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Transportation. NSTA reported afterward that the meeting “served as a foundation for finding the specific federal funds to dedicate towards the campaign.”
However this quest to fund the campaign turns out, all who joined in should be commended. As an industry, we’re working together for a vital cause, and we showed that we can raise our voices to advance it.