"What can I do?"
Know and engage with every one of your elected officials
Let your opinions be known to your elected officials. Phone calls, emails, and especially handwritten letters DO make a difference.
- President Trump: www.whitehouse.gov.
- U.S. Senators: Lamar Alexander – www.alexander.senate.gov and Bob Corker – www.corker.senate.gov.
- U.S. House of Representatives:
- Governor Bill Haslam: www.tn.gov/governor.
- State Senate:
- 33 members – 5 Democrats and 28 Republicans.
- In Davidson County we have 3 state senators: Steve Dickerson (R), Thelma Harper (D), and Jeff Yarbro (D).
- Check the Tennessee General Assembly’s website to find out precisely which senator represents you: www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators.
- State House of Representatives:
- 99 members – 25 Democrats and 74 Republicans.
- In Davidson County we have 10 state representatives: Bill Beck (D), John Ray Clemmons (D), Brenda Gilmore (D), Speaker Beth Harwell (R), Darren Jernigan (D), Sherry Jones (D), Harold Love (D), Bo Mitchell (D), Jason Powell (D), and Mike Stewart (D).
- Check the Tennessee General Assembly’s website to find out precisely which House member represent you: www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators.
- Every community in Middle Tennessee is different, but in Nashville, our Mayor is David Briley and our vice mayor is Jim Shulman. We also have the third-largest largest city council in the country! There are 40 members of Metro Council – 35 elected by district and 5 elected at-large. Go to www.Nashville.gov, and search the Government section to “Find My Councilmember,” and to connect with the Mayor and Vice Mayor.
Register to vote and then vote in every election
Voting is the ultimate privilege as citizens, and we need to vote in every election (federal, state, and local). In Tennessee, voters show up at the polls at a far lower rate in non-presidential years than in years when there is a presidential election. For example, during presidential years (2016, 2012, 2008, etc.), about 2.5 million Tennesseans voted. In non-presidential years (2014, 2010, 2006, etc.), only 1.6 million voted. And in non-presidential years, the vote has been declining every four years, despite Tennessee’s growing population.
Tennesseans can now vote online! New to town or recently moved? You can also get answers to your voting questions or check your status online at govotetn.com!
Register your friends and neighbors to vote
We can get our friends, neighbors, and co-workers to register to vote – and then go with them to the polls! Most eligible Tennesseans claim that they vote; in fact, they do not. For example, in the last election, young people (18- to 24-year-olds) in Nashville could have represented 13% of the total vote if they had voted at their strength. Instead, their share of the vote was only 4%. Change starts at home, in our own neighborhoods and workplaces.
Subscribe to newspapers
Real news has never been more important. You can do your part by subscribing to your favorite newspaper. The Tennessean, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are all superb publications that deserve your support. We have great local resources, too. Subscribe, read, and share.
Sign-up for publications on the Cooper website
– “Top 10 at 10” –10 daily news articles in your email inbox by 10 a.m., curated by the Cooper staff.
– IssueWatch – Updated information about issues that impact Middle Tennesseans.
Use social media and local media outlets to spread your message
Are you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms? Are you maximizing your “reach” by communicating not just about your life, but about your community and the changes you’d like to see? What about writing letters to the editor, or calling into radio talk shows? All of these platforms are important.
It is also important to stay rational and be proactive as “alternative facts” fill our social media feeds. Are you sharing articles from verified sources? Are you reading articles and fact checking before you repost them? According to Pew Research Center, people under age 50 get half of their news online. And for those under 30, online news is twice as popular as TV news. Engaging your peers online is important, but you should know and teach others how to spot a fake news story.
Think about what skills you bring to the table and how you can utilize them for service. For instance, a non-profit organization may need translators. If you speak another language, you could offer to help them translate materials. Maybe you have a background in writing. Non-profits may need help writing blog posts about their work. If you are an attorney, you can help with legal services. Did you know that 86% of detained immigrants go through their proceedings without legal counsel?
Support your favorite local charity
We can change policy by supporting organizations that reflect our values. While many organizations do not get involved in advocacy work, others do. There are many non-partisan organizations in Tennessee, and depending upon your interest, my staff can help you identify the one that might be best for you! The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has a very fine list of important non-profits active in our communities: www.cfmt.org. Support your favorite one with your dollars and your time.
Volunteer at your local public school
Can you spend an hour every week reading to second graders? Are you willing to collect or purchase needed school supplies? What about coordinating voter registration drives at your zoned high school? Nearly every public school in MNPS has volunteer opportunities for caring adults.
Get active in a church, synagogue or mosque
Thousands of people are doing incredible work in our community, through their houses of worship. They are setting examples for others to follow. We need to be active and leading in all aspects of our lives.
Volunteer on a campaign
People are policy. Elections are the way we reinforce – or reject – people who aren’t reflecting our community values. Join a campaign. Help smart, qualified people win elections at every level.
Run for office
Better yet, run for office yourself! All levels of government need expertise and passion for service. Women and minorities are particularly underrepresented in elective office, especially in Tennessee.