Liliana Griego is a graduate of the San Gabriel Mountain Forever Leadership Academy and a volunteer for SGMF who joined a group of coalition members on a trip to Washington, D.C. to advocate for protection of our national monuments. Below, she reflects on the experience.
What Surprised Me
I was shocked to learn about the network of tunnels and the subway system found under the Capitol that connects the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings. Unfortunately, only representatives are allowed to take the subway, but we did utilize the tunnels every time we traveled from one representative’s office to another. After visiting a few offices and speaking to different staff members, I also learned that they actually like when local representatives visit them and they strongly encourage their constituents to call if they have opinions on certain matters. A staff member shared a story with me about their office receiving so many calls on one particular issue that they couldn’t get any work done because the phones wouldn’t stop ringing. It was a fast way to bring attention to the issue and they felt pressure to resolve it as quickly of possible. This story showed me that our voices can be heard if we just make them loud enough.
What We Talked About
When I arrived in D.C., a weeklong event was being held by the Monuments for All campaign. The week was designated for two things — to draw attention to the national monuments that are currently being reviewed and to find ways to bring diversity and inclusion to those monuments. Local representative from different monuments were brought together to share their connection with their particular monument. Other Californians accompanied me, and we shared our stories with different congressional offices. We requested they make their voice heard on the floor, submit letters of opposition to any changes on the national monuments, and support any legislation that would benefit Californian monuments.
I was also given the opportunity to speak on a panel that brought different perspectives on how national monuments benefit different communities. Speakers addressed how beneficial monuments can be in terms of archeological preservation, growth of the local economy, and providing opportunities for urban youth to experience nature for the first time.
What I’m Still Thinking About
After returning from D.C., I felt energized, optimistic, and determined to keep the momentum going. After speaking to many representatives of the LA region, it was reassuring to hear that most of the offices are in support of our national monuments and they are fighting the good fight alongside us. I believe now the greater push is to continue engaging our communities and educating them on the importance of our national monuments. I now feel inspired to spread the word to my community and let them know that our representatives want and need to hear from us. Politicians and the people who work for them are in fact just people, and sharing your story with them can be impactful. Filling out those postcards actually does matter, making those phone calls can make a difference, and uniting together can bring change.