How to Pitch Legislation
Rams starting pitcher Steven Rossi is no stranger to a double-header – but this particular Friday afternoon was a new challenge. He went from leading his first Zoom workshop on political advocacy to leading his team to victory over Gordon College, all within a few hours.
Rossi is used to balancing his dual passions: baseball and politics. When the pandemic dealt a curveball to students across the country by turning many courses and internships into remote experiences, he saw an opportunity to finally immerse himself in the Washington, D.C.-based policy work he longed to try without giving up his spring athletic season.
Rossi is dedicated to social justice. He plans to go to law school when he graduates from the political science program next year, and work toward criminal justice system reform.
Through The Washington Center program, he interned with the advocacy organization Build a Movement (BAM), and learned how to push for meaningful change. BAM’s top legislative priority this spring was Rep. Barbara Lee’s resolution to create a Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, whose goal is to address and eliminate persistent racial inequities.
Over the course of the semester Rossi learned to research proposed legislation, identify potential supporters in Congress, and approach those legislators and their staff appropriately with persuasive, well-reasoned arguments. He applied skills gained on the baseball field to get the job done – practice, persistence, and teamwork. Now he’s sharing those lessons with others.
“A lot of Suffolk students are passionate about social justice issues but they don’t know how to turn that support into action,” he says. “I want to show them that it’s not that hard with care and preparation, and that they really can make a difference.”
During his “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Advocacy” workshop this spring, Rossi gave his audience an insider’s view and hands-on training. After sharing his own experiences and tips for contacting members of Congress, he brought in two top members of Rep. Lee’s team – Deputy Chief of Staff Kayla Williams and Legislative Fellow Marshele Bryant – who offered candid advice on the most effective ways to elevate a message and plead for a cause.
Williams urged would-be advocates to make their requests explicit and actionable, and to always check whether the legislator has already signed on to a piece of legislation. Bryant agreed, and told students to get straight to the point and directly ask the legislator to support a particular bill or resolution.
Then it was time to practice.
Rossi provided contact information for members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation who hadn’t yet signed on to the resolution, a sample script he uses in his own outreach, and plenty of encouragement – then paused the workshop so each participant could make their own calls.
When the workshop reconvened, he checked in with his new team of policy advocates. The script had been very helpful, they said, and the experience made them feel like they’d broken the ice and done something important. They were eager to do more.
So is Rossi. On June 17, he’ll be participating in the Suffolk Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Conference, exploring the topic in more depth with a broader audience. It’s been a busy season, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“As student athletes, we don’t have time to do everything so we have to make choices,” says Rossi. “I am lucky to have the support of my advisor, professors, [vice president of diversity, access, and inclusion] Joyya Smith, and others as I do this work – and most of all my coach and teammates.”
As they prepared for their first game of that Friday’s double-header, Rossi’s teammates took time to send encouraging messages about his workshop. They met him with congratulations when he walked over to the field for Game 2.
“It’s great to know that our team is very conscious of what’s going on in the world and they’re all willing to grow, learn, and support important causes.”