SourceAmerica's 2019 Grassroots Advocacy Conference: A Father's Perspective - Day Four With The Rock Stars

By Robert Pelikan 08/01/2019
SourceAmerica's 2019 Grassroots Advocacy Conference: A Father's Perspective - Day Four With The Rock Stars

June 6th was our last day in Washington, D.C. What an incredible experience! Day four began with my alarm going off at 6 a.m. We had packed up everything the night before, so all we had to do was shower and get ready for breakfast. At breakfast, I spoke with that sharp-dressed man Tyrone, and he told me about growing up with his sisters and his love for music. RJ was looking forward to our meetings that day, but he was also looking forward to going home to be with his mom and Bruno (our loveable Labrador).

OMG would be the order of our visits: Rep. O'Halleran, Rep. McAdams and Rep. Gallego. You get the picture. Office number 324, Rep. Tom O'Halleran's, was our first stop. We met with Legislative Director Sally Adams. It was our last day on Capitol Hill but a very important one. Sally was very gracious during our meeting, and I could tell she genuinely appreciated hearing RJ's story. When I sent her an email following up, she responded back shortly thereafter, and I felt our message was heard. Rep. O'Halleran is lucky to have someone like Sally working for him. I hope he will become an AbilityOne Champion.

Next up was Rep. Ben McAdams' office. We met with his Legislative Assistant Chris Cunningham. I sent this email to him following up: "Thanks for meeting with my son RJ. We had a great trip to Washington, D.C. It is people like you who made it special. Thanks again for listening to his story. Policy can and does change lives and RJ has been that recipient. #PowerOfInclusion and @SourceAmerica. I'm sure Rep. Rob Bishop is lonely as the only AbilityOne Champion from Utah. Please ask Rep. McAdams to join him!"

The last stop of the day was the office of Rep. Ruben Gallego. The G of OMG. We met with Nathan Schelble, who is the Legislative Director. Nathan was so gracious during our visit and later via email. It was our last meeting of the trip, but the commitment goes on, and we will continue to be advocates no matter the outcome. Thanks again to Nathan for listening to RJ's story and to responding so quickly to my emails. Nathan is a champion, and I hope he convinces Rep. Gallego to be an AbilityOne Champion.

We were done with all our meetings at about 11:30 a.m., which meant we had about two-and-a-half hours of free time. RJ told me when we were back in Arizona that he wanted to go to the White House and meet President Trump and that he wanted to go to the Library of Congress and to the Supreme Court. A 67% is usually a D, but in our case, it was awesome. President Trump was at the D-Day celebration and unavailable, so otherwise we were 100% A+. We had already gone to the Library of Congress yesterday, so we headed to the Supreme Court, and it was nothing but spectacular. RJ and I wandered around taking it all in. We were impressed at every turn. RJ purchased a few things for himself and a special gift that was a secret. Time was running out, and we wanted to see the statues in the Capitol.

Our Capitol tour started with a movie, which was about 15 minutes, and then we did a guided tour with headsets. I highly recommend the tour. The rotunda and the statues were awesome, and our trip was now coming to a close. The tour was kind of lengthy at 45 minutes, but it didn't cost any money. We were listening to our guide when I realized we should have left 15 minutes ago! We hightailed it and jumped in Ross' cab. We got to the hotel a few minutes late after failing Ross' White House quiz. Who knew the White House was 55,000 square feet and had three kitchens and 28 fireplaces? Well Ross knew, and he taught us those facts and a few more.

Living in Arizona, I rarely wear a suit and tie. It felt good to change into shorts and a polo shirt in the airport bathroom. Going home was bittersweet. We met so many incredible people, and we shared our stories and listened to so many life-changing events. We need to work together instead of dividing and selfishly pursuing our own agendas. Congress can either hop in their boats and head in opposite directions or jump in the same boat and row or paddle together. Thank you to all who made our time at the grassroots conference possible and so very special. Also, a special thank you to my family for always loving me unconditionally.