Advocacy

EANC Remembers Senator John McCain

While there has been no shortage of tributes to the late Senator John McCain from many Estonian sources in the last week, EANC would like to highlight a few notable memories of his work in support of Estonia and the Baltic region.  He made five visits to Estonia during his career in the Senate and many legislative actions that demonstrated his support for Baltic security.  We remember him as a staunch ally in Estonia’s struggle for independence, its bid to join NATO, and more recently in defending its sovereignty in the face of renewed threats from the Kremlin.  He will be sorely missed as a champion for freedom and democracy in a time of uncertainty.

John-McCain-in-Estonia-April-2014-Tairo-Lutter-Postimees

Senator McCain in Estonia in 2014.  Photo credit:  Tairo Lutter – Postimees

Senator McCain first visited Estonia in August of 2001.  According to the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), he gave a lecture honoring the first U.S. Ambassador to Estonia, Robert Frazure, who was killed in 1995 near Sarajevo while on a mission to negotiate an end to the conflict in Bosnia.  McCain also met with President Lennart Meri and Prime Minister Mart Laar.  The MFA’s article called McCain a “Member of the U.S. Senate and one of the leading and most respectable politicians in the U.S.A.”

Headlines about McCain’s 2004 visit are dominated by references to a certain contest with another Senator and presidential hopeful.  Though the contest may have helped with Estonia’s popularity, more substantive results were evident from the trip, as well.  At the time, according to an Associated Press report from July 2006, “the trip was notable because McCain, while in Latvia, called Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko a dictator and said the elections Belarus planned for later in the year were ‘bogus.’”  McCain’s disdain for corrupt leadership and feigned democracy in the former Soviet space was clear even then.

News on McCain’s 2014 and 2015 trips is harder to find, but his December 2016 visit is also well-remembered.  He led that delegation to reassure Estonia and its neighbors that the U.S. would remain in NATO under the incoming administration despite doubts regarding the role the new President would take as a leader of Western democracy.  His remarks at the press conference with Prime Mister Jüri Ratas at the end of the visit included the following, quoted from Postimees:

“My message – both republican and democrat – is, that we will maintain our NATO commitments, we will maintain an American presence and cooperation and training. And we will appreciate, for example the brave young Estonians who are with us in Afghanistan as we speak…

“Estonia was not attacked on 9/11, the United States of America was attacked on 9/11. It was Estonia and other countries, our NATO allies that joined us to go all the way to Afghanistan to respond to an attack on the United States of America…

“My message is – at this time when we see things like cyber attacks being conducted by Russia, China and other countries; when we see the continued aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine; when we see continued threats to Georgia – our relationship is perhaps more important than it has been in a long, long time.”

McCain’s legislative support of Estonia goes back to 1991.  Results from a search of congress.gov on legislation referencing Estonia that he cosponsored include bills to support democracy and self-determination in the Baltic States; to authorize the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Baltic peoples to alleviate suffering; the NATO Freedom Consolidation Acts of 2006 and 2007; and numerous National Defense Authorization Acts that included funding for growing U.S-Estonia defense cooperation.  There were also resolutions designating June 14, 1991 as “Baltic Freedom Day;” calling for a review of economic benefits provided to the Soviet Union in light of the crisis in the Baltic states; calling for  a prompt withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from the Baltic states; commending and expressing the gratitude of the United States to the nations participating with the United States in the Coalition to Disarm Iraq; and congratulating the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the 100th anniversary of their declarations of independence this year.

EANC  is grateful to Senator McCain for service to the strong relationship between the U.S. and Estonia.  We will continue to honor his legacy and uphold in our advocacy work the values he championed during his long and admirable career.

Standard
Advocacy

How to Request an In-District Meeting

With JBANC’s Baltic Advocacy Week less than a week away, now is the time to reach out to your Representative’s office.  Please refer to this guide if you have any questions about how to set up a meeting.

The House of Representatives is in recess and in their home districts for much of August.  Now is a perfect opportunity to meet with your members of Congress and discuss issues of importance to your community.  Your legislators want to hear from you – their constituents – and the issues impacting the district, state, and country.  Inviting your Representative to your community center for a town hall-style meeting would be ideal.  If that’s not possible, consider arranging an in-district meeting at their local office.  If your Representative isn’t available, meeting with a local staffer, preferably one who handles foreign affairs issues, is a good alternative.

Information about your members of Congress can be found here: www.govtrack.us/congress/members

Some things to consider before the meeting:  BAW Aug 2018 flyer week before

  • What is the format of the meeting? Are you inviting them to your community center, or going to their local office?
  • What issues are you presenting?
  • How many individuals do you want to include in the meeting?

Each year, Congress takes district work periods when they work out of their local offices rather than on Capitol Hill.  Members are also frequently at home in August, around holidays, and at the beginning and/or end of each week.  Unfortunately, the House and Senate do not necessarily follow the same calendar.

House calendar: www.majorityleader.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Month.pdf

Senate calendar: www.senate.gov/legislative/2018_schedule.htm

Requesting the meeting:

Contact the legislator’s local office, which can be found on his or her individual website at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.  You can make your request by phone or e-mail.  Ask for the contact information of the state/district director and who schedules in-district meetings for the Member of Congress.

In your request, explain the purpose of your visit, identify all participants and suggest possible meeting dates.  The more flexible you are about the date, the more likely it is that your meeting can be included on their schedule.  If you don’t hear back from their staff, be persistent.

Here’s a sample appointment request by e-mail for an in-district office meeting:

Dear Representative (or Senator) [last name]:

I am a constituent from (city/town).  As a member of the [Estonian/Latvian/Lithuanian]-American community, I would like to request an opportunity to briefly meet with you in your [location] local district office on [dates and times].  I plan to discuss the following issues.

[Provide additional details about the issues here].

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this meeting request.  I will contact your office soon to determine your availability.  Should you or your staff have any questions in the meantime, I can be reached by phone at [your phone number] or by e-mail at [your e-mail address].  Thank you.

Sincerely,

[your name]

Other helpful tips:

Learn as much as you can about your legislators’ backgrounds and do your research.  Look up their Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus or House Baltic Caucus membership status at www.jbanc.org/house-baltic-caucus.  Follow them on Twitter and check their Facebook page.  Determine their political ideology, the Congressional committees they serve on and personal facts such as hometown or background.  This kind of information can provide insights into their worldview.  Most of this information can be found through the individual’s congressional website.

You can access reference materials for your meeting or phone call and a hand-out that you can share with your legislators at www.jbanc.org.

If others are joining you at the meeting, be sure to discuss the issues ahead of time and decide who will take the lead in presenting the issues.  This is particularly important if there are a lot of first-time advocacy participants attending the meeting.

Determine who will compile, print, and bring leave-behind materials to be given to the office.  Bring two copies, one for the legislator and one for their aide.

When it’s time for your meeting, be punctual.  Members of Congress often have busy schedules and a late arrival may mean that you miss your appointment.  You may also want to be flexible, since it isn’t uncommon for a lawmaker to be late or have the meeting interrupted by a crowded schedule.

Meetings usually last 15 minutes.  Start the meeting by introducing all of the participants.  Discuss your story, where you’re from and why you’re advocating.  Share the materials on JBANC’s policy briefs.  Walk the legislator some through the key issues you’re most passionate and knowledgeable about.  You will probably only have time to discuss 2-3 issues maximum during the meeting.  Remember to use personal stories to underscore a point about the issue.  Make sure to leave time for you to hear the lawmaker’s thoughts on the subject.

Try not to antagonize a Member of Congress.  Be straightforward but respectful when expressing your views.  If the lawmaker doesn’t offer up their position on the issues, feel free to ask them what they think.  Remember to be specific about what your ask is.  For example, are you asking them to cosponsor a piece of legislation?

Keep in mind that we do not expect you to be the experts on the issues.  Don’t feel like you need to know the answer to every question.  If you are not sure what the answer to a question is if asked, consult our team and it will be a great opportunity to follow up with the congressional office.

Remember to follow up!

Feel free to use the following format for a thank you letter:

Thank you for meeting with me on [date and place].  I am pleased that we had the opportunity to discuss
issues concerning the Baltic-American community.

[Briefly go over what the issues and what asks you want the member to act on.]

Again, thank you for meeting with me.  Please contact me at [your phone number] or [your e-mail address] if I can be of any assistance or if I can provide any additional information.  I will continue to monitor these issues and will keep in touch with your office as developments occur.

Please also follow up with the organizers to let us know you’ve had a meeting.

Points of contact (for more information, answers to your questions, and to follow up):

Estonian:  Karin Shuey karinshueyeanc@gmail.com

Latvian:  Erik Lazdins LazdinsE@live.com

Lithuanian:  Vytas Aukstuolis vytauk@gmail.com

JBANC:  Karl Altau jbanc@jbanc.org

Special thanks to Erik Lazdins for contributing to this article.

Standard