It was one of the most significant battles in American history. On June 1 of 1863, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army marched his men from northern Virginia into Pennsylvania where he went into battle with the Union Army of the Potomac in the town of Gettysburg. The fighting intensified on the second day, and on July 3, Lee ordered 15,000 soldiers to attack the center of the Union’s resistance at Cemetery Ridge. The battle came to be known as Pickett’s Charge.
Lee was able to penetrate enemy lines but at great cost. The Union casualties were 3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, and 5,365 missing. Confederate casualties were 3,903 dead, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 missing. On July 4, after it started to rain heavily, General Lee withdrew what remained of his army and marched back toward Virginia. Meanwhile, most of the Union soldiers had been quickly buried in poorly marked graves.
On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his most famous speech at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. His now iconic Gettysburg Address turned the nation toward liberty and equality for everyone. And it was only 272 words.
Lincoln began, “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal.” Lincoln ended with this charge, “From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We are privileged to live in a country where democracy seeks to ensure that all people have the innate right to food, shelter, the opportunity for an education, and a job that can not only support a family but is fulfilling.
The Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church recognizes the importance of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Therefore, every year we sponsor an “Advocacy Day” at the state capitol in Des Moines.
The Iowa General Assembly (IGA) is the legislative branch of the government of Iowa. Our legislature consists of the Iowa Senate (50 members) and the Iowa House of Representatives (100 members). Our legislature is also part-time, and in 2020 they will be meeting for one hundred days, from January 13 to April 2. Governor Kim Reynolds is the chief executive of Iowa and is the state’s first female governor.
The Capitol building itself is stunning. Constructed between 1871 and 1886 on top of a hill, the Capitol’s 23-carat gold dome can be seen from miles away. In addition to the Senate and House of Representatives, the Capitol houses the Governor’s office, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the old Supreme Court room.
Having never lived near a state capital before, it was a new experience for me to participate in Advocacy Day for the past few years. Advocacy Day provides an opportunity for anyone wishing to make a difference to meet with legislators and express our views on impending legislation. We begin the day by gathering at a nearby United Methodist Church to hear about our legislative priorities.
This year, the Iowa United Methodist Women, along with our Advocacy Team, are providing leadership for prioritizing our time at the capitol as well as deciding which upcoming bills we will focus on as we meet with legislators. According to Conference Chair of the Board of Church and Society, Rev. Josh Seward, “It’s the annual opportunity for Iowa United Methodists to lobby the statehouse with a voice of faith and caring for the poor and oppressed.”
Our Advocacy priorities related to the 2020 legislative season are criminal justice, mental health, gun safety, the environment, poverty, and human rights. These priorities reflect the positions of The United Methodist Church as found in our Social Principles and Book of Resolutions. The Preface to our Social Principles says, “The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.”
- Criminal Justice
Our priorities include humanizing the restorative justice system; racial and ethnic profiling; alternative outcomes to arrest; and financial bonds as a last resort.
- Mental health
Our priorities include providing adequate funds for mental health care and suicide prevention and ensuring that there is an adequate number of mental health care workers in Iowa.
- Gun safety
Our priorities include a call to end gun violence by ensuring that all guns are sold through licensed gun retailers; prohibiting all individuals under restraining order due to threat of violence from purchasing a gun; and promoting new technologies to aid law-enforcement agencies to trace crime guns and promote public safety.
- The Environment
Our priorities include advocating for an aggressive effort to halt the acceleration of climate change by changing human activities, including plastic pollution; also encouraging renewable energy and the right to abundant and clean water.
Our priorities include advocating for a Minimum Wage/Living Wage; welfare reform; tax reform; gambling; and education.
- Human Rights
Our priorities include equal protection of all under the law; immigrant rights; and the death penalty.
In the United States, we have a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Every person has a responsibility to create a country where all people have the opportunity to live a full and healthy life and make a difference. The word “advocate” comes from the Latin word advocare, which means to “add” a “voice.” To advocate, then, means to add our voice in support of a particular cause.
I am grateful for a country where each person has the right to “add their voice” in support of those who need our help in order to live full and healthy lives. If you would like to participate in Advocacy Day, which is Thursday, January 30, please click here for the brochure, which also includes our legislative priorities. We will meet at Wesley UMC in Des Moines from 9:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., including lunch and several hours spent at the Capitol speaking with legislators. If you decide to participate in Advocacy Day, please contact Deb Streff at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know how many are coming so we have an accurate lunch count. If you have other questions, please contact Brian Carter at email@example.com.
Of the people. By the people. For the people.