"I am Pro-Polio."
My heels clicked on the marble floor. Click, echo, quiet. Click, echo, quiet. Click, echo, quiet.
The halls of the Senate building are nothing but white. The marble of the floor, walls, and ceiling seemingly create tunnels of living history. The cracks and bends of the facade seem to whisper the names of the thousands of Americans who have been here before me.
And, I was inside.
American flags, POW flags, and State flags were to my left and right - the only color seen in the halls. And as I passed door after tall, thick door; I noticed each held a greeting, “Please come in.”
Click, echo, quiet. Click, echo, quiet.
I was here on a mission, so I just kept walking. Sweaty with nerves. Flip-flopping stomach. It was my first time.
Before arriving at Capital Hill, I was briefed. The experience and passion of former Congressman Jon Porter was clear. He said,
"You have an easy job today. Tell them what you know, and why you are here. After all, no politician is going to say, ‘No thanks, I’m pro-polio.’”
Those simple instructions could not calm my nerves. I had never been on Capital Hill, and there was palpable political stress in Washington. After all, the city was busy with preparations for the President’s State of Union Address the following day. Fiscal limitations. Entitlements. Division.
I found the Senator’s office. I met the staffer. We sat. We talked. I told her about my patients - my kids in Kansas City who suffered from measles, a vaccine-preventable disease. I wanted the Senator to know how important it was for our KC kids, and the kids of our global family, to continue to have access to life-saving vaccinations.
I was asking for the continuing priority of child health funding as part of Shot@Life, an American vaccine advocacy movement from the UN Foundation.
Vaccines are a cheap, effective, and safe way to protect families from unnecessary suffering and death. Despite potential budget redistributions, the US needs to continue to support international vaccination efforts to eradicate diseases like polio, measles, and pneumonia. Our Senators need to ensure that funding is maintained to global vaccine access since these initiatives are a source of fiscal responsibility, National security, and humanitarian cause.
And with continued leadership from the United States, we have the opportunity to put these vaccine-preventable diseases in our rear view mirror.
After our meeting, I proudly left Capital Hill with a new understanding of our power as American citizens. I had a chance to share my passion for the health of children, and my dedication to the families I care for. I felt empowered and energized by being one of many who are part of the movement to give another child a chance to live a full and dynamic life. One of many who values every child, no matter where they live. And one who wants to give every child a shot at the healthy life that they deserve.
“So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.”
- President Barack Obama, State of the Union address, Feb 12, 2013.
For more information about Shot At Life,visit shotatlife.org.