I usually write about making things but today I’m writing about doing things.
Yesterday I testified in one of three public hearings around the US with a group of EPA officials who are considering reducing the amount of pollution that can be released into the air by power plants across the country. As a lifelong asthmatic, I wanted, just once, to tell them how bad air affects my life and my health. I brought all of the medications I take as well as the nebulizer I use for respiratory infections. I thought it would be a good visual and I think it was.
I was given five minutes to say what had been on my mind for as long as I can remember. It was a cathartic experience and one that I highly recommend. I prepared my statement the night before and practiced to make sure I was within the time limit. I kept it as brief as possible because I wanted them to get my message that their actions have a profound effect on my life and that I believe that clean air is a human right, pure and simple. My voice cracked with emotion more times than I wish but I was glad that I didn’t actually cry — although I was really close! I do a ton of public speaking but never about something that is so personal.
I have to say that I was prepared for bored bureaucrats who would be filling our their expense reports while I spoke but in fact, all but one maintained full eye contact with me for the entire time I spoke. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. The Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago has put my testimony on their website should you want to read what I said.
I’ve participated in hearings in my neighborhood and used to be on the Community Design Commission in my town, but it was really the first time I asked for something directly on a national level. It felt good to be participating in our democracy. I told my doctor what I had done and she said, “Thank you.”
Now if someone could get me five minutes with those knuckleheads in the tobacco industry, I’d be a happy woman.