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The View from the Frontlines of Change

Lessons Learned In The Halls Of Education Fuel Retired Teacher’s Work In The Halls Of Power

By Elise Barker

 

Lobbyists get a bad rap. They’re usually envisioned as Gucci loafer-wearing glad-handers, working the halls of Congress to advance their clients’ interests.

Willie Dickerson (left), a retired teacher in Snohomish, Wash., is a lobbyist, too. But he’s more likely to wear comfy shoes than Gucci loafers. And there’s only one item on his agenda: ending poverty worldwide.

He is part of RESULTS.org, an organization that trains volunteers to become skilled advocates who press elected leaders to take action on poverty, hunger, and health issues.

Dickerson retired in 2009 from the Marysville School District where he was a middle school teacher. During his career, he taught kids from Head Start through high school. Before teaching full time, he studied Buddhism, co-owned a cooperative community and taught English and career-readiness skills to Southeast Asian refugees in California.

Given his varied interests, Dickerson’s post-retirement opportunities seem endless. He’s chosen RESULTS because it is an organization that epitomizes one of his philosophies: Think and act globally—and locally.

While RESULTS focuses on worldwide problems, more than 100 chapters across the country are empowered to take actions where they are. Volunteers are trained on the issues and on how to become advocates, design media campaigns, and meet with members of Congress. They get to know their representatives, providing their staff members with the expertise that leads to legislation that would, for example, increase funding for food stamps and other anti-poverty programs in this country, or provide more funding for essential medications in distressed countries around the world.

Dickerson was influenced by his brother, Bob, a long-time RESULTS volunteer. It wasn’t long before he was as passionate about the movement as his older brother.

“One of the great things about RESULTS is that even before I retired, I could spend 10 minutes and really make a difference,” he says.

He especially enjoys writing letters to members of Congress and op-eds that appear in local and national newspapers. In a Mother’s Day op-ed in “The Monroe Monitor & Daily News,” he wrote:

“The world is still a sad place for many mothers: 6.3 million children die before they turn 5 every year of mostly preventable causes. Plus, 289,000 mothers die from pregnancy-related causes, according to a RESULTS.org fact sheet. My mother would want to do something. So do I.”

Dickerson gets excited about what is achievable through RESULTS.org. It’s slow-going sometimes, but the teacher in him is always hopeful.

“When I first started getting involved, back around 1990, 40,000 children died every day around the world from preventable causes. Right now, that’s down to about 17,000,” he says. The satisfaction that gives him is similar to how he felt as his students transitioned from Head Start to high school. “Getting to see those changes hooks you,” he says. “You get a sense of everything that’s possible.”

 

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Published In

1-Oct-15

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