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Writing to a Member of Congress

“If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different.”
– the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, 1994

The United States is a republic, which means our democracy is based on representatives who act for us. How do these representatives know how to act? It is up to each citizen to keep his or her representative informed as to how they want our government to act on issues. Congressional members are key people to contact as they make the laws that the executive branch must carry out. Remember: our Congress is bicameral, so you have three people who are accountable to you – your representative and your state’s two senators. Here’s how to write a letter to your congressional delegation and let them know how you feel on key issues.

1. Write to the correct person. This is the person who represents your district/state and is accountable to you (this is the power of voting). Sending letters to other members of Congress will not be as effective. Use your representative’s Washington, DC, address. 

  • To locate who your congressperson (serves in the House of Representatives) is, visit  www.house.gov.  

    Address your letter as follows:

    The Honorable (full name)
    (Room #) (Name) House Office Building
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Representative:

  • To locate who your state’s senators (serve in the Senate) are, visit www.senate.gov
    Address your letter as follows:

    The Honorable (full name)
    (Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
    United States Senate
    Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Senator:

2. Make your letter original. Chain letters or prewritten letters are often marked in the congressperson's office as “received.” You may get a form letter in response, but it will have little impact on how s/he stands on an issue. An original letter should require an original response so you know how to follow up.

3. Keep your letter simple.  A typed, one-page letters work best, so focus on only one issue per letter. A three-paragraph letter with this structure may work for you:

  • Tell the member of Congress who you are and why you are writing. 
  • Provide information for your Congressman by stating the facts. Do some research on the topic and think about how it affects you or others. Tell your member of Congress that information in a clear and concise format. Be calm and respectful: you are informing him/her of the issue and why he or she needs to act. Don’t use too much emotional language as it lessens the letter’s impact. Be specific as to a piece of legislation you want him/her to vote for/against or to cosponsor, or another action you wish for him/her to take.

    These Web sites offer a start for the research necessary to write this part of your letter:
  • Close the letter by asking (not telling) the member of Congress to do something specific:  vote for or against a bill, co-sponsor new legislation or speak on the topic. Do not threaten the member of Congress as this has serious security implications. Thank him/her for his/her time and sign off. Be sure you have included your name/address so he or she can respond to you.

4. Be sure your letter is clear and professionally written. Before you send your letter, be sure you have proofread it. Have a friend read it as well to make sure the tone is appropriate and the information and request are clear.

5. Stay informed and keep acting. If you get a response, follow up by sending a thank you note.  Use this opportunity to send more information if they didn’t commit to an action or to encourage them to continue supporting the end to genocide. Get friends with similar viewpoints involved in writing as well. If you do not get a response, mail a new letter and do not get discouraged. 

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If You Believe
If you believe…
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If you believe…
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If you believe…then act!
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