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Congress Is Ready for the Solar Eclipse

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 08:58

Thanks to Our Volunteers

Thanks to the hard work of a number of volunteers, the AAS was able to provide information about the Solar Eclipse Across America to every congressional office.

On 11 July, 11 volunteers convened at AAS headquarters in Washington, DC, to help assemble the information. This information included the date, time, and location of totality, instructions on how to safely experience the eclipse, and 10 pairs of eclipse glasses. On 17 July, 15 volunteers traveled to Capitol Hill to give that information to each congressional office.

Several volunteers reported back that the offices were very excited to get the information — many staffers knew all about the eclipse already. Our volunteers answered questions about the best places to experience the eclipse, what people in Washington, DC, will experience, and more.

AAS volunteers worked in the AAS executive office to assemble the eclipse information. Some of the AAS volunteers that traveled to Capitol Hill to distribute the eclipse information.
Photos from Ucu Agustin and Tri L. Astraatmadja

An Opportunity to Engage with your Members of Congress

The Solar Eclipse Across America also presents a unique opportunity for AAS members to engage directly with their members of Congress. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be doing in-district work on 21 August 2017. That means that they'll be in town!

For those districts and states that are on or near the path of totality, you should consider inviting your member of Congress to the local event of which you're a part. If you're not organizing an event, then reach out to the organizers of an event and make the suggestion — but be prepared to volunteer to extend the invitation.

If you're not on the path of totality but you're still organizing an event, then you should still invite your members of Congress. Totality or no, you'll still be providing your members of Congress with a remarkable opportunity to experience the public's excitement for science.

At the bottom of this post, we include some sample communication templates. If you're not sure if your congressional district is on or near the path of totality, then please refer to the map below.


Sample Communication Templates

Draft AAS Member Email for a District/State on the Path of Totality

[EDIT BEFORE SENDING]

Dear [Senator/Representative NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME]. I'm a constituent in [city, town, state], and I am writing to make sure that you know about the solar eclipse on 21 August 2017. The path of totality, where the Moon will completely block the Sun, goes through our district/state. I am part of a group organizing a viewing event at [location], and I would like to extend an invitation to you and your staff. At this event, [provide a brief description of the event, with any relevant URLs].

If you need any information about the eclipse, or if you find yourself needing some solar filters so that you can safely observe the eclipse, then please get in touch.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

Example Phone Call for a District/State on the Path of Totality

[EDIT BEFORE CALLING]

STAFFER A: Hello, [Senator/Representative NAME]'s office, can I help you?

AAS MEMBER: Yes, I would like to speak with the person in charge of [Senator/Representative NAME]'s in-district schedule.

STAFFER A: OK, I will see if he is in right now. <pause> He can speak with you now [note: you may get a voice mail, leave the same message as the next bit of conversation; you may also have to call a different number to reach this person].

STAFFER B: Hello, I'm [staff name] and I'm [Senator/Representative NAME]'s scheduler... How can I help you?

AAS MEMBER: Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME], and I am a constituent of [city, town, state]. I am calling to make sure that you all know about the solar eclipse on 21 August 2017 and that you know that the path of totality, where the Moon will completely block the Sun, goes through our district. Also, I am part of a group organizing a viewing event at [location], and I would like to extend an invitation to [Senator/Representative NAME], and her staff. At this event, [provide a brief description of the event].

Might [Senator/Representative NAME] be able to join us?

STAFFER B: I'll have to take a closer look at [Senator/Representative NAME]'s schedule to check her availability for that day. [The scheduler may ask you to follow up via email or may ask for your contact details so that he can get in touch with you.]

AAS MEMBER: Thank you for your time. If you all need any information about the eclipse, or if you find yourself needing some solar filters that you can safely observe the eclipse, then please get in touch.

Heather Bloemhard
John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
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