As children, the Potts sisters rallied at political conferences with their mother. Now, in the tense days of the federal shutdown, they continued the tradition at Capitol Hill by joining female legislators nationwide to protest military funding.
As members of Women’s Action for New Directions, or WAND, UNC students Lydia and Isabelle Potts championed the causes of peace, women’s empowerment and decreased military spending.
WAND is a national advocacy organization that started as a grassroots campaign of wives and mothers for nuclear disarmament during the Cold War era.
“I guess you could say we grew up as children of WAND,” Lydia Potts said.
Lydia Potts, a senior political science and global studies double major, and Isabelle Potts, a sophomore who is undecided, traveled to Washington, D.C. on Saturday to attend their third WAND conference and lobby members of Congress about military spending. They returned Tuesday night.
About 57 percent of the federal government’s discretionary budget currently goes to the Pentagon — a number WAND members argue is too high.
“One of the main issues of the federal budget is how excessive the military spending is — especially Pentagon spending,” Isabelle Potts said. “We need to focus on redirecting military spending on unmet human need.”
The Potts sisters said they would like the money to go to services that would benefit the public, including veteran benefit packages and education programs that would create jobs.
“I guess our biggest fear is that the programs that take the biggest hit are programs like health and education, while the Pentagon doesn’t get cut,” Lydia Potts said.
And while politicians debate the federal budget during the shutdown, Lydia Potts said it is especially important to discuss decreasing military funding because budget allocations are not finalized.
The Potts sisters met with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., Rep. David Price, D-N.C., and an aide to Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
“I felt that with Hagan, Price and Butterfield, a lot of our stances on these issues are reflected in the actions they’ve been taking,” Isabelle Potts said. “So that was very encouraging to me.”
The Potts sisters joined with N.C. Reps. Rosa Gill, D-Wake, Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin, and Deb McManus, D-Chatham, during the trip.
“It was definitely very helpful having the opportunity to lobby with state legislators,” Isabelle Potts said.
Jessie Calkins, a spokeswoman for WAND, said the lobbying group conducted 117 meetings on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
“When enough people cry out loud enough for change, it can make a difference,” Calkins said. “Now they’re going back across the country and sounding the cry to shut down the shutdown.”
For Lydia Potts, that means continuing work with state representatives.
“It definitely made me want to get to work,” she said.
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