2023 Hill Day: Chandra's Story

Chandra Kim, DPAC Champion

DPAC Hill Day. United States Congress members. People in suits and ties. Secure buildings. And YOU, do the speaking????? I’m just a regular person dealing with diabetes. How can I make a difference?

It can be quite intimidating, but I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be. I won’t say that what I say are the tricks of the trade to transform you into a professional lobbyist. You don’t need to be. We all have our own day jobs. What you do have (that a lobbyist doesn’t) to be the most successful as a DPAC Champion on Hill Day is passion. Passion is the most important job requirement. Next is first hand knowledge and experiences with diabetes.

Check, and check.

I have been a diabetes advocate since 2009, locally in my home state of Hawai`i. My first Washington D.C. meeting was a year later in 2010, where myself and another rookie D.C.-er handled scheduling, training, navigating the Hill (Capitol), and speaking to congress members and/or their staff. We sat in offices, scared, filled with nerves. You want to know how I felt walking out of these meetings? Pumped! I was hooked and wanted to do it again.

Here’s the piece I want you to know though. As pumped as I was to do it again, every year since, I’m still scared, filled with nerves. Then I start talking and sharing, sometimes with familiar staff members, sometimes with new faces, but I know I have a story to tell. I know DPAC has provided me with my targeted issues to discuss. I am prepared AND nervous all at the same time. And that’s okay.

Here’s a blooper story about one meeting. I had to do this particular meeting solo since my counterpart was unavailable. That meant I had to cover every topic myself. I got off topic. I forgot which topic we were on and I started talking about another topic. I caught myself mid sentence and honestly said, “Oh! I got off topic!” Then, I did my mental pivot to get back on topic. Mistakes are made. Not a big deal. Acknowledge, then continue (hopefully correctly this time!). Oh, and this mistake was made in 2023, after 15 years of participating in diabetes advocacy!

Since COVID, Zoom has been a popular choice for meetings. I like that it provides the opportunity for you to commit to attend only the meetings that work in your schedule, without having to spend days away from your family. As a parent of a T1D, I know the difficulties of choosing to be away from your family in order to participate in Hill Day.

But how do we know what to say? This is the best part because you get to tell your story! You have the opportunity to talk about how your life has been affected by diabetes. You talk about your struggles and your successes. You get to cry. You get to make the asks that affect you and every American living with diabetes, directly to the legislative decision makers.

That’s exciting. And powerful. And in my opinion, that perfectly describes our DPAC diabetes community.

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