Friday, March 21, 2014

A Final Goodbye from EDC Policy Director, Jeanine Cogan

Dear EDC advocates,

As the last day working with the EDC my heart is filled with gratitude for each of you.  Thank you EDC advocates for your strength, courage and commitment.  Thank you for speaking up, for speaking out, for taking a stand.  

For me the EDC was about empowering others - inspiring you to break the silence, to tell your stories, build relationships with your legislators, and ask for needed change.  Over the 14 years since our birth EDC has had more than 1000 people come to Washington, DC to speak their minds.  What a powerful force!  

And in a mutually synergistic way - you all inspired me!  Take for example the first time advocate.  You spent your money on airfares and hotel rooms, flew to DC, found your way through the maze of DC streets and arrived early (yes early!) to basic training.  Often you were anxious, venturing into something completely unfamiliar, not knowing how to lobby yet.  Yet you showed the courage to show up and then trusted me to give you the tools to fly! You went with your team to the first lobby visit - excited and nervous - and eventually with the support and encouragement of your team - you spoke up and told your story to the Congressional staffer.  "Wow - they actually listened!" was a common response.  Witnessing the transformation from anxiety in the morning to empowered strength in the evening was truly a gift! 

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."  Albert Schweitzer

Many of you met Members in official meetings or spontaneously in the halls of Congress.  I'll always remember how emboldened Terry Rustemeyer was when she saw Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the halls of the Russell Building.  She walked right up, introduced herself and shared her grief and heartbreak over the loss of her daughter Melissa to bulimia.  Hillary was visibly moved and said she would help.  Through this and other efforts (shout out to Joslyn Smith) Senator Hillary Clinton became a champion for our cause while she was in office.

I'll always cherish the chutzbah of so many of you.  A favorite is when veteran lobbyist Deb Melk cornered the chair of the Eating Disorders Caucus and as a constituent demanded in no uncertain terms an explanation for why she was still not a cosponsor of the FREED Act.  The Member signed onto the bill that day!

"God gave us memories that we might have roses in December." J.M. Barrie

I admire the commitment of so many advocates who came back year in and year out to give voice to this cause.  Thank you Gail, Johanna, Kitty, Kathleen, Matt, Carmen, Lisa, Eilleen, Katie, April, Chevese, Lizabeth, Millie, Jillian, Lara, Deb, Alan, Nicole, Liz, Laura and all the rest of you who came to lobby day repeatedly.  Through your continued efforts we passed a stronger mental health parity bill then was originally proposed. We pressured the administration to write stronger parity regulations that will cover more people with eating disorders.  We won Republican support for the FREED Act in the early years and Republican Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is championing EDC's new photoshopping bill this month (way to go Johanna and team Florida!).   It takes a village!  It takes a movement.  Thank you for being part of the movement!

Kitty and I built this organization out of love and righteousness!  The EDC was a place to bring your outrage and troubled heart.  The EDC was a place to heal and transform through positive action.  So many of you found it a welcoming place to bring your experience of darkness and loss and use it as a tool of change.  To all of you I give my thanks.  Your participation, leadership and action makes a difference.  

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

with love, Jeanine 

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