Over 500 volunteers travelled to the nation’s capital a few weeks ago to learn how to become active members in a democracy from one of the most prominent grassroots environmental organizations in the nation: The Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Citizens’ Climate Education (CCL/CCE). Thanks to SGA funding, CCL, and support from a multitude of Chapman University faculty and staff, 10 of these volunteers were Chapman students Haley Miller (Environmental Science & Policy), Kelvin Hoppel (ES&P and Economics), Courtney Bonilla (ES&P), Matthew Sahli (ES&P and IES), Rebecca Felix (Economics), Kaitlyn Bishop (ES&P and Political Science), Zach Davis (Political Science), Monroe Roush (ES&P), Maddie Sueltz (ES&P), and Mallory Warhurst (ES&P and Political Science). Each of us travelled across the country to take part in CCL’s 4th annual Congressional Education Day for different reasons, some for hands-on policy experience, some to learn more about Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposed Carbon Fee & Dividend legislation, and some just to revel in the wonder that is Washington, D.C. However, we all came out of the experience full of hope, wonder, and knowledge, all due to the great work that Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Citizens’ Climate Education are doing.

Students in front of the Capital Building

From left to right: Maddie Sueltz, Zach Davis, Mallory Warhurst, Haley Miller, Rebecca Felix, Kaitlyn Bishop, and Kelvin Hoppel in front of the Capitol Building.

After arriving in the nation’s capital on Sunday, November 12th, a few of us met up with Chapman Alumna Sara Wanous (‘17), who now works for CCL as an Administrative Assistant, and toured the city. A few of the stops included the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln and Washington Monuments, and the EPA office.

The following day was Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s education and training day. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a non-profit, non-partisan, advocacy organization focused on policies to combat climate change. The Congressional Education Day is a two-day event consisting of one day of training and one day of lobbying on the Hill. At the training, we met veteran and fellow newcomers of CCL, including fellow Chapman alumna Taylor Krause (‘16) who now works as an assistant to the President of CCL, heard inspiring speeches, learned about CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal, and were trained on how to successfully communicate with members of Congress. CCL strives to be unbiased by simply finding the most socially optimal solution to the climate problem and how it will affect the environment, economy, and people, as opposed to pushing a political view. The organization also focuses on building relationships with the elected officials, instead of merely pressing the issues, which we wholeheartedly agree with. In between the climate advocate, communication, and legislative training seminars, we met with our groups that we would be lobbying with the following day (which were predetermined by CCL staff) to determine who would take the various roles during the meetings with Congress members, or their staffers. A few of us were even chosen to lead our meetings! One student also had the opportunity to meet with Laurie Saroff, the Chief of Staff for Lou Correa, who is the Representative of California’s 46th district, in which Chapman University resides.

We learned a lot from the training, but here are a few highlights:

  • CCL’s Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal has been endorsed by many economists as being the best solution to addressing the climate problem.
  • Find a common ground with your Congress members, and thank them for their service to this country.
  • Choose power over force. Power will lead to freedom, force will lead to revolt.
  • Democracies only work when citizens participate.
Students in Chapman gear

From left to right: Monroe Roush, Matthew Sahli, Mallory Warhurst, Taylor Krause (’16), Haley Miller, Maddie Sueltz, Kelvin Hoppel, Sara Wanous (‘17), Kaitlyn Bishop, Courtney Bonilla, and Rebecca Felix at CCL’s Congressional Education Day repping some Chapman gear.

CCL has invited us back for their even larger lobby day in June of 2018, and are working with a few of us to spearhead a CCL group on campus, as they appreciated having a strong representation from younger generations. They are currently working on recruiting and retaining more college level students to demonstrate to Congress that young people care about their future, and therefore, so should their representatives.

We are incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn from experienced veterans as knowledgeable as CCL volunteers and staff, experience meeting with members of Congress and Senators firsthand, and very thankful that an organization as organized and helpful as Citizens’ Climate Lobby was there to schedule and setup everything for us. The abundance of knowledge and information provided by the multitude of staff members and guest speakers during the training day fully prepared us for the exciting day on Capitol Hill, and the unparalleled practical knowledge and skills we acquired during our trip will help prepare us for any future political endeavors we may embark on.