Sports fans across America are familiar, of course, with a special time called March Madness. On Capitol Hill, however, March brings a less well-known but even more sacred flurry of activity, legislative conferences and citizen lobby days.
You may have noticed from the blog that I've been addressing a number of different organizations that have come to the DC area this week and last.
Well, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution explicitly speaks of five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. So every spring, associations from all over the country invite their members to come to Washington and petition their members of Congress.
This is a great tradition, where ordinary people get an opportunity to meet their legislators and educate them about the issues that matter to their constituents. And it is a hallmark of our democracy.
Transit advocates talking about operating costs. Bicyclists talking about complete streets. Firefighters talking about smother, safer roads and better hazmat training.
Ordinary Americans, traveling from all over the country at their own expense, knocking on their legislators' doors, explaining to decision-makers about what matters to them and how they want to be represented.
That is democracy. And we have preserved it for over 200 years.
I loved it when I was a junior high school civics teacher in Peoria. I loved it when I was a Congressman representing Illinois. And I'm loving it now.
So, if it's March in Washington, DC, then it must be the season of legislative conferences. Not exactly the lilacs or forsythia many of you are waiting for--or the cherry blossoms Washingtonians celebrate; still, a terrific sign of spring that makes me proud to be an American.