Georgia had 176 REALTORS® attending the Midyear Meetings with the majority making the trip to Capitol Hill to meet with our Members of Congress. We met with our two Senators in a luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Offices Building. Prior to the luncheon, we had a few meetings with our Congressmen scheduled and then after lunch, the rest of our meetings with our Congressmen took place. I attended meetings with Congressmen Jack Kingston, David Scott, John Lewis, and concluded the day with a meeting with my Congressman, Phil Gingrey. All of the meetings I went to were well-attended and very good, productive meetings.
The relationships we build with our Congressional Representatives is what this is all about, and this year we sat down and just had a conversation with each of them, we only really discussed one Bill (HR 1077), with the majority of our time spent on general discussion of the issues. The comments from the Congressmen I met with, were along the lines of, they all stand beside us on the issues we were discussing. Most of them asked us some really good questions, as they truly tried to understand the issues we face each day as the ‘boots on the ground,’ and several were quite knowledgeable on many key issues we discussed. It was obvious our work prior to arriving in DC had been successful.
Some of the highlights of the day included a great talk with David Scott, a co-sponsor of HR 1077, where he insisted on every one of us having a chair, saying ‘I can’t have my REALTORS® standing up.’ It was clear to us Congressman Scott not only had a deep understanding of the issues, but he also had a great deal of care and concern over the issues, citing several events he has helped sponsor back home to help struggling homeowners and job seekers. Other comments made by Congressman Scott included, ‘REALTORS® are very important and should have a seat at the table,’ and ‘I am with you 100%!’
Although the meetings with Jack Kingston and my own Congressman, Phil Gingrey, went very well and was a demonstration of the very strong relationships we have with them, my highlight was the visit with Congressman John Lewis.
Congressman Lewis has a long standing supportive relationship with us REALTORS® and he went out of his way to be a superb host during our visit. Our meeting got started a couple of minutes late due to the Congressman being held up in a meeting so we began our talk with one of his staff, and Representative Lewis joined us a short while later. We had a 17-year old high school student along with us, and she presented the Congressman with our talking points, it was shared with everyone she had a passion for history and had studied abroad in Germany. Hearing this, Congressman Lewis shared a story with us about him going to Germany and touring a JFK Museum there, where he found a picture of himself and several other Civil Rights Leaders in the Oval Office with JFK and Lyndon Johnson, a picture he had never seen before. The museum curator arranged for the Congressman to get a copy of the picture, which is included below. When we were done talking about issues, the Congressman insisted upon us going to his office for a group picture. However, when we got to his office, it quickly became a living history lesson and we were a captive audience. Every picture on his wall and in his office, the Congressman was able to share the names of every single person in the picture, where the picture was taken and the date it was taken, an amazingly sharp man. In the corner, at the front of a stack of pictures is the picture he had discussed with us a few minutes prior, the picture he had seen for the first time in the JFK Museum in Germany. We all gathered for a large group picture in his office and then he guided all of us out to his balcony which has an incredible view of the Capitol to the left and the Library of Congress to the right. He wanted all of us to get pictures with him with the Capitol in the background and then he took a lot of his valuable time to ensure we had all of our questions answered and we all got any pictures we wanted. I think many of us realized just how special it was to have this experience with one of America’s Living Legends, and we were all impressed with his graciousness, and how humble he is about the events he took part in during the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the comments the Congressman made during our visit included, ‘you have all been such great friends,’ and ‘you will have my help and continued support.’
It was a long day on the Hill, but our meetings were extremely productive, I even heard at least one of our Georgia Congressmen made a commitment to sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 1077. It was a very good day of relationship-building, discussing the issues surrounding housing and economic recovery, with the addition of a co-sponsor being the icing on the cake.