Junior Leads Washington, D.C., Lobby Trip

April 17, 2018

Emma Marks Interviewed by Sirius/XM Radio News

As Emma C. Marks waited in the plush lobby outside Sirius/XM radio’s Washington, D.C., studio in mid-March, it fleetingly came to mind how far she has come in three years — from a high school senior in York, Pa., to the subject of a national news program.

PICTURED: Emma Marks has worked with Dr. Michael Snarr on several major projects, including Spring Lobby Weekend and a new book titled Quakers, Politics and Economics.

The thought was only “fleetingly” present because she quickly found herself wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone while engaged in rapt conversation with host Chris Frates on Sirius/XM News & Issues channel’s Politics Inside Out.

The Wilmington College junior was in the Nation’s Capital as the leader of WC’s 26-student contingent participating in the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s annual Spring Lobby Weekend. The three-day activity attracts college students from around the country to learn from experts about the year’s topic — immigration reform in 2018 — and the art of lobbying, and then actually lobbying their elected officials.

WC’s annual March sojourn to Washington has become a signature hands-on learning experience, and, between Marks’ two spring trips, a fall one designed for agriculture students and two excursions as part of the College’s Amnesty International chapter, she is a five-time veteran of petitioning national legislators on issues close to her heart.

“In high school, I feel I had a lot of strong opinions and issues I cared about, but I had no outlet to pursue them,” she said. “At Wilmington College, I’ve had so many opportunities — and I’ve gotten a lot out of them.”

This year’s topic is one she’s considered at great length both within the context of Amnesty’s advocacy and from the Friends’ experts on the topic. Frates’ Sirius/XM interview covered everything from what the students told their legislators about the nation’s broken immigration system to how Wilmington College – an institution small in size but mighty in action — annually brings one of the largest groups to Spring Lobby Weekend and how advocacy through lobbying dovetails with her career interests.

“My lobbying experience has humanized Washington, D.C., for me. I originally thought members of Congress were singularly great men and women making decisions on their own,” she said, noting it was a revelation learning about the often-extreme amount of pressure placed upon elected officials for their support — not only from constituents but also professional lobbyists, campaign donors and the institutions of partisan politics.

While that reality was part of her learning process, she’s also seen how individuals can make a difference, in effect, that a single stone can send ripples throughout the entire pond. Witness her experience with WC’s Amnesty International chapter.

“When I was a freshman, Amnesty was one person, Carly Pritchard, before I joined,” she recalled. “We’d sit down once a week at Joe’s Java and say, ‘The world sucks! How can we fix it?’ We now have 10 to 15 members who regularly come to our meetings — it’s great having a whole group of kids with similar beliefs about human rights.”

Marks currently serves as legislative coordinator for 50 Ohio chapters of Amnesty International. Earlier this semester, she led more than four-dozen Ohio college students in lobbying elected officials “about why human rights are so important.”

Nine of those students were from Wilmington College and — unlike many of the students from other schools — came to Washington with previous lobbying experience.

As she looks forward to her remaining time at WC and beyond, Marks is so passionate about activism that her “dream job” would involve advocacy on justice issues from the grassroots level. However, she knows such full-time positions are often rare and elusive.

“But, I’ve worked with people who’ve been advocates for something like Amnesty while working their full-time jobs,” she said. “That takes some of the pressure off me knowing you can do both — have a full-time career and be a part-time advocate.”

Last summer, she interned with her Congressman, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA, 4th District), spending five weeks in Washington, D.C., and five weeks in Pennsylvania. This summer, her internship will feature an opportunity to lobby on legislation with Farm Credit Mid-America’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs Dept. based in Louisville.

Dr. Michael Snarr, professor of political science, said Marks is an exemplar of a fully engaged student whose effective leadership and hard work inspire others. Indeed, she has taken advantage of the College’s hallmark for hands-on learning and leadership development.

“The sky’s the limit here for students — just pick your opportunities,” Snarr said, adding that Marks has been assisting with copywriting for a book he’s co-editing, Quakers, Politics and Economics.

“Emma’s doing a great job with the book just like she did in organizing the lobby trip and everything else she does,” he said.

Marks shared that Snarr’s presentation during her initial visit to WC helped sway her decision to attend Wilmington College.

“I wanted to go to a small school and major in agriculture,” Marks recalled, noting she stopped at a school in West Virginia en route from her home in central Pennsylvania to WC’s annual scholarship competition, however, she quickly realized she was “not comfortable” there.

“I got to Wilmington and all the professors were super kind and engaging,” she said. “Michael spoke of peace and social justice, and the Honors Program, all of which got me really interested.”

And, as they say, the rest is history.