Rep. Joe Kennedy: ‘The Stories You Tell Matter’

In an industry as nuanced and ever-changing as insurance, it’s important for our lawmakers—many of whom have no business experience of their own—to understand their votes have consequences.

At Wednesday’s Young Agent and InsurPac State Chairpersons Legislative Luncheon during the Big “I” Legislative Conference, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts) stressed the importance of educating your representatives about the issues you see firsthand every day. When making policy decisions about complex topics like health care and tax reform, Rep. Kennedy said independent agents help “make it real” for legislators on Capitol Hill.

“For all of you who made the trip for these couple of days, I can’t tell you how important that is,” Rep. Kennedy said. “It’s more than just a two-minute conversation about a bill or regulation that needs to be adjusted. The stories you tell matter, because that’s actually why most of us ran for this job in the first place—to try to address those problems.”

Rep. Kennedy pointed out that independent agents are a crucial voice in Washington, D.C., because of the “cross sections of the communities you represent and how economics go through those communities—what businesses are succeeding, which ones are struggling, and how the federal government can do a better job making sure we all have access to the type of success we all want to have.”

It’s no secret that the current political climate isn’t always bipartisan. But “if you zoom out a little bit, take a step back from that polarized dynamic, what you see on the right, you actually see on the left as well: Citizens across the country who are screaming for solutions,” Rep. Kennedy said. “Whether you’re a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican, people feel like their government isn’t responding the way they need it to.”

And the result can be disastrous, Rep. Kennedy pointed out. “You see this frustration and anger build and build until it overwhelms the level of discourse this place needs to function.”

When constituents who have specialized expertise make the effort to make their representatives more informed, “it’s not about whether it’s a Democrat issue or Republican issue. It’s about ‘Look, this is a problem we’re seeing in our community, and we have to solve it,’” Rep. Kennedy said. “When you come by and talk to us, what drives that conversation is learning how some of these big issues that get polarized actually manifest for a family that’s trying to make ends meet, for a business that’s kind of struggling, for a company that’s trying to start up.”

In a political climate where so many are distrustful, the best way to solve problems is to “make sure we’re focused on what drives people’s daily lives—what drives their consumer choices, what drives their decisions and families,” Rep. Kennedy said. “Many of you as small business owners and operators know about that better than anybody else.”

“I urge you to take that knowledge of how the big stuff influences the day-to-day and the personal stuff, which is at its heart what matters,” Rep. Kennedy added. “The way we get to ‘Yes’ is you raise your voices. You make sure that your representatives understand the consequences of action and inaction, because both of them are a choice you make. Help us understand that as we get pulled around and sucked into a polarizing vortex. You can help translate that for us.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor. Jordan Reabold is IA assistant editor.

Photo by Marty LaVor