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SPEAK Out! Day with Future Teachers Taking the Lead

Thomas Watterson, Gayle Wells, David Claxton, & Dan Grube

joperd cover april 2018Political advocacy works (Shilton, 2006). Organizations have long known that personal interaction between advocacy groups and members of political bodies can be effective in raising awareness and guiding policy. In 2009 the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), now SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, organized the first SPEAK Out! Day in an attempt to influence the U.S. Congress to support initiatives related to health and physical education. Participation in SPEAK Out! Day is open to all health and physical education professionals and students. This lobbying event is designed to gather health and physical education advocates in Washington, DC to represent their state and their profession, meet with members of Congress from their state, network with other health and physical education professionals, and advocate for legislation that advances their mission. For example, in recent years attendees at SPEAK Out! Day have advocated for health and physical education programs as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (SHAPE America, 2016).

In 2011 Karen Dowd wrote a compelling argument, encouraging health and physical education professionals across the nation to attend SPEAK Out! Day. She stated that advocacy, which focuses on education about a specific issue, should be local, regional and national. She suggested that advocacy initiatives such as SPEAK Out! Day should incorporate four actions: connect, engage, impact and invest (Dowd, 2011). When meeting with public officials, the conversation begins with information about the topic, and it can move on to lobbying for a specific measure.

Lobbying — which is the attempt to influence the actions of public officials — has been found to be an effective way to make public policy change (Yackee, 2015), and people advocating for a cause can influence government policymaking (Nelson & Yackee, 2012) with lobbying at the state and national level. In particular, student involvement in political advocacy and lobbying is being used in various disciplines. Physical therapy students joined physical therapy professionals in their Federal Advocacy Forum in 2008 (“Forum Participants Urge Members of Congress”). In 2010 the
National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) began hosting a student advocacy program that is now a part of NACDS Day on Capitol Hill. On this day pharmacy students meet with legislators and staff to discuss legislation relevant to their profession (Adams, Matzke, & McCall, 2015). Social work students are also participating in political action days (Beimers, 2016; Moore & Johnston, 2002).

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