When their reps ignored requests for town hall meetings, these constituents got creative.

The U.S. House and Senate broke for a recess this week with the expectation that representatives will return to their states and districts to engage with constituents.

Recent town halls have been packed, loud, and passionate as citizens push back on the Trump administration's executive orders, troubling Cabinet picks, and the Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Representatives have left events early, snuck out the back door, or simply refused to schedule anything, forcing their constituents to find them.

But people around the country are fighting back and demanding town halls.

As they should. Congresspeople work for you. Here are 11 creative options constituents have tried so far to get their representatives' attention.


1. Guest of honor won't RSVP? Hold the party without them.  

Yes, having your representative attend a town hall would be ideal, but if they can't or won't show up, host the event without them. It's still an opportunity for constituents to meet, share concerns, and mobilize for action. Constituent-led efforts in Tampa, Florida; Loudoun County, Virginia; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Vista, California, are underway this week.

2. Take the town hall to them!

If your rep won't schedule an event, take your concerns straight to them. That's what constituents of Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes did when they gathered outside a fundraising dinner the Californian Republicans were attending in Bakersfield and demanded a town hall.

Constituents gather, hoping to share their concerns with McCarthy and Nunes and push them to schedule official meetings. Photo by Lynn Scotts Runyan, used with permission.

3. Write a song and make a music video.

That's what the people of Martin County did. Their parody of Meghan Trainor's "Dear Future Husband" asked Rep. Brian Mast (R-Florida) to come to Martin County for a town hall meeting. Mast announced a veteran's town hall in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday (ignoring the song's request), but it's a start.

4. Get other people to keep an eye out.

Rep. Paul Cook (R-California) hasn't yet held an in-person town hall, and his district is starting to get worried. They have a website devoted to finding him, and a creative search party taped a few missing flyers to milk cartons at a local store. Can't hurt right?

5. Sign and send!

Citizens around the country are signing petitions requesting their representatives come home to host an in-person town hall. This petition to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) has more than 20,000 signatures. A similar petition to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) has more than 32,000.

Gardner (left) and Blunt (right). Photos by Alex Wong/Getty Images and Mario Tama/Getty Images.

6. Make a video message ... or several.

Twitter user @madeline_says has made and sent multiple requests to her congressman, Rep. David Rouzer (R-North Carolina). Whether on her way to work or after a run, Madeline has made time to reach out to her elected official. It's a shame he can't be bothered to do the same for his constituents.

7. Book a standing appointment with your representative, whether they asked for one or not.

Following last year's election, the people behind the grassroots group Tuesdays With Toomey host protests every Tuesday at the Pennsylvania senator's offices across the state. Someone even brought a sousaphone. Things are getting serious.

8. Say it with flowers or maybe a nice card...

For Valentine's Day, Twitter user @TechnicallyADoc asked Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham (both R-South Carolina) out on a date — to discuss health care. Scott piggybacked on Rep. Mark Sanford's town hall on Feb. 18, but no word from Graham.

9. ...or perhaps thousands of cards!

You know what's better than one card? Thousands of postcards delivered to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan requesting an in-person town hall in his southeastern Wisconsin district.

We're gonna need more trucks. Photo by iStock.

10. Make your message larger than life.

If the 70,000+ postcards don't get Ryan's attention, this billboard in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, may do the trick.

11. A surefire way to get your representative to come home? Vote them out.

If they refuse to listen, if they refuse to meet, if they refuse to acknowledge they work for everyone and not just the people who put them in office, then let them know you will do everything within your power to relieve them of their post.

If they're not up for the challenge of being an elected official in the age of resistance, then find and support someone who can. Maybe it's you!

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

Keep Reading Show less