Had a long phone conversation with a staffer at my congressman’s office about our initiative. He is the one who gets our letters with stories from Ukraine. Conversation reinforced my conviction that we are doing the right thing including daily frequency. 

Earlier I was asked by one of the volunteers: Might it be more effective to send fewer emails? Might they become annoyed with so many emails and stop reading them?

Here is my answer.

Our messages are first read by a staff member. It’s the staffer’s job to read each and every message that comes to the office; for a staffer, there is no question about “becoming annoyed and stop reading”—that would mean neglecting one’s duties. When the letter is classified as being in support of Ukraine it increases the tally which gets reported to the elected official weekly. Back in April I spoke with my Senator’s (Elizabeth Warren) office, and they assured me that the messages are tallied together regardless of whether they come from the same person or different people. I asked, “Even if I write every day?”. She responded, “Even if you call and leave a message every 15 minutes.” Earlier this week I also talked to an aid at my congressman’s (Jake Auchincloss) office, and got the same confirmation—no annoyance, every letter is read and counted.

In addition to the counter, a weekly report to the official includes specifics from selected letters from that week – it is up to the staffer to decide which ones get included. 

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut wrote to another volunteer, “On Friday of every week, my staff sends me a detailed, comprehensive report of what the people of Connecticut are writing to our office about, and your thoughts and opinions have been included in this week’s report.” 

Rep. Auchincloss’s aid told me that they tend to include details from letters where the topic is controversial and the congressman would want to know what both sides are saying. In my district support for Ukraine isn’t such topic—they apparently receive many letters and all of them are in favor of Ukraine. We all know that there are politicians around the country in whose districts letters of support would compete with those who are saying the opposite. In those districts our work is particularly important. 

Nevertheless, I managed to convince the aid that it would be helpful if my congressman would have a chance to read some of our stories. I have highlighted how our letters are different, and how they might give the congressman emotional motivation to do all he can and more. I also mentioned that he could use our stories in his conversations with other voters or other officials. I asked the aid to choose a few stories that made the biggest impression on him personally and share them with his boss. 

Today I got a follow-up email from the aid, “Thanks again for your leadership on supporting Ukraine. It was nice talking with you the other day. I just wanted to close the loop here and inform you that I’ve sent several of these to the Congressman, and like we discussed, I’ll periodically share them with him as well.”

Representative Anna Eshoo (CA) to another volunteer, “Thank you for sharing the heartbreaking stories of Ukrainians which you have translated as part of the Empathy for Ukraine Initiative. I’m so grateful for your important work to elevate the voices of Ukrainians facing Russia’s brutal aggression, and I will keep these stories at the forefront of my mind, my votes, and my prayers.”

A volunteer from California received a response from her Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, which starts with the words “Thank you for sharing the heartbreaking stories coming from Ukraine”.

Marianna Epstein

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Marianna Epstein