It’s time to reflect on what we have already accomplished. (And I apologize that this is a bit longer than a blog should be but . . . what a week. So much to reflect on).
Okay so, I say “we” because even though I am the one who penned the widely-circulated blog “An Open Letter to Senator Scott Brown,” what happened after I pushed “post” almost exactly 48-hours ago is truly an example of a legion of warriors holding a front line impossible to ignore.
I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t know what to expect when I hit “post.” I’m very new to blogging (actually, I’m one week into it!) and while I’ve been a regular reader of a handful of really great blogs, I had yet to become a true believer in the awesome power of social media.
I get it now. In a way I never even imagined.
Here are some stats. The blog, which seemed to hit home with not just the entire diabetes community, but our national of represented constituents, has been read thousands and thousands and thousands of times. It’s been forwarded via email, by twitter and on facebook. It’s been featured on large, popular websites. Folks have commented from all over the world. Private messages have been streaming into my facebook inbox at a clip even I cannot hyperbolize about.
I’m stunned and honored. I’m beyond humbled. But it’s important to remember: This is not “me.” This is very much “we.”
I’ll review some of the timeline and make some comments and then, again, give you a call to action.
So honestly, even though my gone-awry meeting with Senator Brown happened a year ago, I would never have written about it had I not read, early Tuesday morning (thank you Google updates!) about a nice woman from Massachusetts who made a trip to DC for the ADA and was brushed off by the Senator. Something about that just got to me. It’s one thing for me to be ignored: after all, I’ve been lucky enough to experience advocating on the hill many a time. But something about this lovely woman showing up all hopeful and excited and getting the cold shoulder just got to me. I’m still trying to reach her (the reporter who wrote the story promised me to forward her the blog and results). I hope she knows, along with everyone out there that there is an army of supporters behind you when you take the time to make such visits.
So what did I expect when I hit “post?” Since my blog was only a few days old, my best hope was that a few friends would forward it on facebook and maybe, just maybe, someone who knew someone would point it out to the Senator’s office.
Wow. What happened was way beyond that. Within an hour or two, I could see that hundreds of people were reading it each hour. Comments started to pour in, via facebook and the blog, and what I heard was clear: the diabetes community and the public at large demands more from their elected officials.
And here I need to give some thanks. First of all, to the diabetes blogging community. Now remember, I’m old school. I was a crime reporter on a daily beat for an actual paper newspaper. In that world, it was all about competition. You’d never share information with your “competitor” and you’d never promote their “product.” I discovered quite quickly that in the blogging community – at least the diabetes blogging community – quite the opposite is true. Bloggers I think completely rock were posting my blog and asking their readers to pay attention to it (shout out to sixuntilme.com, diabetesmine.com and many others right here). It was an astounding revelation to me: these people are a team, not competitors. They’re doing this because they care, gosh darn it. Talk about refreshing.
I also need to thank my many friends on facebook and other places who don’t have an immediate family member with diabetes but who took it on themselves to forward this to all their friends along with a call for action. Scituate High School, Darmouth area friends and ski industry peeps: You rock too.
Another thanks goes out to the many diabetes organizations out there that took this and shared it with their constituents. Sometimes it seems like we might be in competition too, but when it come down to it, no matter what our “letters,” we are all a team. It’s no secret that I’ve been a huge JDRF supporter for a long time. But that does not mean I don’t admire and support others. Huge shout out here to DRI, DLife and CWD, again to just name a few. Your support in this effort has been remarkable.
So the thing went, I guess it’s fair to say “viral” by about, oh, noontime. Still, I wondered if Brown’s office would get wind of it. Things can be pretty insulating down there in DC, and everyone knows a US Senator is really a national position – not just a local one. Then someone sent me a note. “Have you checked out Senator Brown’s facebook page? Because you need to.”
Ummmm. No. I had not. I did and was astounded. Post after post after post was there, sharing the link to my blog and demanding the Senator make things right. I had no idea who most of the people posting were. But they were on our team. His Twitter account showed the same story. Scores of people were pointing this out to him.
At about 2 p.m. I got an email from the local JDRF office. Senator Brown’s office had called and asked for my contact information (I had not put it on the blog because frankly, I didn’t want some guy selling tree bark that “cures diabetes” contacting me). Would it be okay to share it with them?
And then my phone rang. With the Senator. And an apology. And an offer to set up a good, long meeting as soon as possible. In just six hours, the social media world had done what no one had yet been able to do: get Senator Brown to stop, think about us, and decide to dedicate some real time to us.
And then my phone rang again. And again. NPR (I accidentally called them NPH – diabetes friends will love that slip!). Fox News. ABC. PBS’s Emily Rooney. The buzz this push caused was showing up on radar screens everywhere. Wow.
So on May 16 late in the afternoon, my daughter with diabetes and I will sit down with Senator Brown and make good on my promise to “wipe the slate clean and start fresh.”
Of course, one can say: well he’s just doing it under pressure. But you know what? He’s doing it. His scheduler was very clear to me that it was important for the Senator to be able to give us his undivided attention for as long as we needed.
I’m going to take advantage of that. I’m glad I have some time to think over exactly what I’ll say and what my goals will be that afternoon. I expect to need to do the Type 1 101 intro (by the way: even though when he stopped me short he said “My grandmother had diabetes,” we should not assume she had Type 2. While chances are she did, she very well could have had Type 1. I’ll want to find that out). I want to win him over to our side. I hope that by showing him the sheer numbers and power of our patient and friend base (I mean, according to the NPR woman, this is a pretty unusual and remarkable show of power even in this crazy social media world), he will realize he needs to understand our needs and be an outspoken and vocal supporter of research for a cure.
Of course I really am the cockeyed optimist (that made me remember my beloved Grandpa). I don’t want to go in there and shame him. I want to go in there and win him over. To our team.
So with that, a promise and a request.
I promise to use that time on May 16 to represent all of you: people with diabetes (adults and children), parents and loved ones of those with diabetes, friends of those with diabetes and yes, just people who care about government working the right way. I’ll work hard to be prepared and hopefully do you proud.
I request you continue showing our power until then. Comment on this blog (or on the original one). Go to Senator Scott Brown’s facebook page and thank him for setting up the meeting but beseech him to truly listen.
Because he won’t be meeting with “me” that day. He’ll be meeting with “us.”
From the bottom of my freshman blogger heart, I thank you all. Together, we can change the world.
For those of you in the Boston area, check out Fox 25 News tonight (April 28) for a story on this. I’ll post a link for those of you out of this area. More media to come. All respectful of Brown and more about our social networking power as a group than anything else.
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