Having just left a naturalization ceremony at the courthouse on 333 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, several fellow interns and I headed further west, about eight blocks away to visit the Mayor’s office to phonebank for D.C. statehood.
Walking along Pennsylvania Avenue is your typical D.C. scene: tourists on scooters, businesswomen and men walking at their steady and determined pace and hopping between spots of shade to avoid melting in the sun and humidity.
Arriving at the Mayor’s office, it was hard to believe that the D.C. local government would ever struggle to get anything done. After all, the Mayor’s office is in the White House’s backyard.
We passed through security into a grand hallway with marble of different colors. Wandering, but determined, we find the designated room for phone banking.
We were quickly welcomed and debriefed with our mission: to call state legislatures to “gauge and spread awareness” about D.C. statehood. Everyone received a list of representatives with their full names, party affiliation, email, and office number.
After familiarizing myself with the material, D.C. statehood seemed, to me, intuitive.
With a population of over 700,000 who pay more federal income tax per-capita than any other citizen of any other state, it would make sense for these citizens to have their own state.
With more residents than Vermont and Wyoming, and an equal number of residents to the states of Delaware and Alaska, D.C. certainly had a population sizeable enough to be a state.
I tentatively punched the first number into the cell phone and waited for someone to answer. The phone buzzed in my ear and words started flowing from the other side of the line. Immediately I went into my script:
Hello, this is Nicolas Rios with the Washington Office for D.C. Statehood. I’m calling to reach [Representative/Senator] about Washington D.C. and its efforts to become the 51st state.
Through most of the exchanges over the phone, it was clear that close to no one knew what we were talking about. I’d often be asked to repeat the issue or clarify what the fuss was around D.C. statehood. A few times I was told that D.C. statehood is outside of the scope of state legislatures. The fact of the matter was simple; more people needed to be made aware of the fight for D.C. statehood, and state and local support for this issue is crucial if we hope to garner national support.
As Americans, we pride ourselves on the rights and liberties enjoyed by the citizens of this country. A citizen’s right to vote is paramount to our democracy, but it can only mean so much without full congressional representation.
D.C. statehood may not mean much to those who don’t live in the Capital, but it means everything to the residents of D.C., and it is their right to achieve statehood and the representation that is so sorely due.