PULSE OF THE VOTERS: Lizzy Diaz hopeful grassroots efforts will make a difference

The day after the 2016 presidential election, Lizzy Diaz couldn’t bear to get out of bed.

“I couldn’t go to work. I just felt truly depressed that this is where we live,” the 26-year-old Goshen resident said.

A registered Democrat, Diaz decided to vote for Hillary Clinton after Bernie Sanders lost the primary. However, a last-minute work trip caused her to miss her opportunity to cast a vote in November 2016.

“I was really regretful that I wasn’t able to (vote),” Diaz said. “I was sitting in the airport waiting to fly back, wishing that I could get an earlier flight. I was a strong advocate for going out to vote and told my family to vote and then felt like a hypocrite because I didn’t actually make it out.”

When she was 13, Diaz and her family moved to Goshen from Arlington, Texas. She graduated from Northridge High School in 2009 and Goshen College in 2013 with a degree in sociology. Both of her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico.

Diaz said she was “completely opposed” to Donald Trump being elected.

“I did not want that to happen. And it was really disappointing for me, waking up the next day and realizing that’s the country we live in,” Diaz said. “And not so much because of him as a person, but what he represents and the fact that there were enough people who voted for him who support some of his rhetoric.”

As Trump took office, Diaz said her dislike of his administration continued to evolve.

“As our leader and someone who is supposed to be representing us as a country, he hasn’t done a good job of trying to reduce the divisions and I think instead he’s been amplifying them.”

Asked about the current political climate in the U.S., Diaz said “I think we’re not in a good place.”

“I feel glad to live in this country, but I think it’s also a time when I feel kind of embarrassed because of how we’re treating other countries and how we’re treating other people and again, that we have a person representing us that I don’t trust and that I don’t feel is capable of leading our country or anything.”

While she is also passionate about education and climate change, immigration and equality are the key social issues that top Diaz’s list of concerns. In her role as program director for Elkhart-based Mennonite Voluntary Service, part of the Mennonite Mission Network, having respect for and supporting people from all walks of life is of upmost importance.

“I didn’t grow up pacifist, but I think some of the values have rubbed off on me,” she said.

Her frustrations about the rhetoric happening at the national level also seeps into local politics, where Diaz would like to see less talk and more action, noting California’s sanctuary city policy and the many men and women who supported the change.

“I think Goshen is making efforts to do that,” Diaz said, explaining she sees a glimmer of such leadership in her hometown. “I think we could be more outspoken. I like Jeremy (Stutsman) a lot, but I think it is hard, this being his first term, to make really strong statements on multiple issues because of his wanting to be re-elected.”

That said, Diaz said she “Feels like (Stutsman) cares about the immigrant community and that’s something I appreciate. I just feel like there could be a lot more action. But I might always feel like that. There will always be room in our society for improvements.”

Diaz complimented efforts in Elkhart County to oppose the immigrant detention center, adding that as local residents gathered for rallies and vigils, she was part of the crowd.

Though these events were far from her first step into the political arena — Diaz has attended marches in support of the environment, the Black Lives Matter movement and was in the crowd during the January 2017 Women’s March in Chicago — she said seeing the community come together in support of immigrants gave her a sliver of hope for the future.

Today, she hopes to help mold what she views as much-needed change as a member of the Goshen Community Relations Commission.

“I think in a perfect world we would just care about each other more as individuals, not even at the higher level, but we would care about our neighbors and be able to have conversations with people we disagree with while still respecting their humanity.”

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