By: Mari Margil
Those advocating for change in law or policy know that nothing ever “just happens.”
The suffragettes spent 80 years advocating for the rights of women— including the right to vote— before the 19th Amendment was ratified a century ago. They could have sat quietly, hoping others would do something beneficial on their behalf, but that would have been a sure way to ensure nothing happened.
Instead, they joined together, educated, lobbied, marched, picketed, stood vigil. It was only with their fortitude, passion, and willingness to act that change occurred. Along with the Abolitionists, Civil Rights activists and others, they show us that advocacy is necessary if we are to achieve necessary change.
I look to these lessons to inspire me and inform my own advocacy as a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association. On days I feel most cynical about the state of politics in our country, I remind myself of this history and of the success that our collective advocacy on Alzheimer’s and other dementias has achieved.
This includes significant increases in federal funding for research on a cure and treatment for Alzheimer’s.
This increase in research dollars represents a successful bridging of the partisan divide in Congress that was only possible because volunteer advocates from across the country – from communities that are red, blue, and purple – along with Alzheimer’s Association staff, who regularly engage with Members of Congress on the need to address this growing economic and health crisis. The more we mobilize, the better our elected representatives understand that there is a broad and growing constituency – that spans the political spectrum – in support of congressional action to take on this challenge.
We may think that the bending of the “arc of the moral universe…toward justice” about which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke, was inevitable — witnessed with the abolishment of slavery, the recognition of rights of indigenous peoples, of African-Americans, of women. But, it’s not. It never has been.
Increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research and treatment isn’t inevitable either. It only happens when we join together to make it happen.
You don’t have to be an expert, a doctor or a lawyer. You just have to be willing to speak up. I invite you to learn more. I, and other volunteer advocates, are very happy to talk with you about what we do, how we do it and how you can become involved.
Advocates are needed in every state and in every community. Whether you dedicate one hour a month or ten, your time and your voice are needed.
Mari Margil lives in Spokane, WA.
Please join us for the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Advocacy Day as we press legislators to fund better care and support and other priority recommendations in the Alzheimer’s State Plan. All meetings to be held online or by phone using the Zoom platform. Learn more at alzwa.org/advocacyday