The Buddy Walk on Washington Report by Dashiell Meier, March 2019
My mom and my sister Marisol and I flew to Washington D.C. on Monday, March 4 for the National Down Syndrome Society advocacy day called the Buddy Walk on Washington. The reason for that is to advocate for things that you believe in and you want people to support. People with Down syndrome came from all over the United States. We meet with members of Congress and talk about important things.
On Tuesday we went to a big meeting in a hotel. The meeting was about how to act when you talk to your members of Congress. We learned how to act professionally. You need to be serious. You need to dress appropriately and be really convincing. You tell them your story so they can see why the laws are important.
They also told us about bills that are important to people with disabilities. The first one is called the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act. That law will make the minimum wage for people with disabilities the same as for typical people. Right now people with disabilities can be paid a few cents per hour for the same work that typical people get $7.25 per hour for. The second one was the Marriage Access for People with Special Abilities Act. That one is so people with intellectual disabilities would have the right to get married without losing their benefits. Right now, people can’t get married because they lose the money from the government they need to live on and that’s not fair.
On Wednesday we went to Capitol Hill. It was 19 degrees outside! I wore a suit and looked professional. I went around with three girls with Down syndrome and we went to meetings with members of Congress. I felt like the small fry of the group because they all graduated from high school and are in college now and have jobs.
First we visited Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office. She was at a hearing so we left information at her office. A hearing is a meeting where people in Congress get information and ask questions. In the elevator we met Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith from Mississipi and we walked with her down the hallway to our next meeting. We were wearing buttons that said “Ask me about #LawSyndrome.” The problem is not Down syndrome. It’s actually the laws. The laws need to benefit everyone including people with disabilities.
Next we had an appointment to see a woman who works with Senator Kamala Harris. I talked about my youtube channels and that they should think of people with Down syndrome and people with disabilities when they are voting for laws. Marisol also talked to them.
Then we went to our appointment at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office and we got to meet her. She had to go to a hearing, so we talked to a man who works in her office. He was very interested in the bills because he has a hearing disability. We all talked and he complimented each story. Personally, I think he really enjoyed mine.
Then we went to meet with Representative Anna Eshoo but someone from her office called us because she had a meeting to go to. They told us we could have passes to watch the hearing. We were walking to get the passes when a woman talked to my mom because she thought I looked so handsome! Her nephew has Down syndrome so she was very interested when Marisol explained the bills to her and LawSyndrome. The woman works for Senator Isakson from Georgia and she told us she could get us a private tour of the Capitol! So we went to that office and then we got to ride on the train cars that the Congress uses to go through the tunnels. Riding on the train was an amazing experience for me since I never did it before. Seeing the Capitol was really cool because I loved the stuff they had on display like paintings, sculpture and architecture! I was amazed by all of it.
I became an NDSS Ambassador so now I will meet with my members of Congress or their staff in their offices in California twice a year. I also get to take a class about being an advocate and I will be invited to Washington D.C. again next year! I had so much fun, I just have to come back!
Somehow I got on the National Down Syndrome Society’s email. There is a photo of me that went out to the public! Now I’m getting popular in Washington D.C.! When we got home, we found out that Senator Kamala Harris decided to co-sponsor The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act because of our visit. I feel honored that she did that for us and I will write her a letter to thank her.
The entire thing was amazing, and I really want to come back with my family. I feel honored because it warms my heart when people are willing to do something that’s really important to you. I learned that if you speak out people might support you even though the laws are against your benefit. I hope that the laws will be changed so people with disabilities and Down syndrome will be equal with typical people in the United States of America.