One person really can make a different. That’s Thea Patrick’s philosophy.
But for a long time, Thea just assumed that she didn’t have anything substantial to contribute to those who were already making change.
At some point, however, Thea realized she didn’t need any particular skills or expertise to get involved with causes she cares about most – reproductive freedom, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights – to make a difference. It’s about taking that first step and taking action.
“There’s so much out there that that needs to change, and nothing will change unless we do something about it. I just had to give my time and my passion.”
That’s why Thea’s always ready to volunteer, whether it phone banking with the ACLU of South Dakota or canvassing for ballot initiatives in the state or just talking to voters about the issues ahead of an election. “I’m kind of shy person by nature, but once I get out there, it’s really empowering and makes me more passionate about the causes I’m working on,” she said.
QUESTION: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
ANSWER: I’m majoring in psychology and government at Augustana University, and I’m interested in working on campaigns after I graduate. In my spare time, I really enjoy reading! I like classic literature, and I would say my favorite book is either “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley or “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. I also really like to bake. I watch a lot of the “Great British Baking Show,” and it has inspired me to bake all kinds of breads and sweets. My family is back in Mitchell where my dad is a professor and my mom is an accountant. I also have a younger brother who will be a senior in high school this year and two cats, Zeus and Stripes.
Q: When did you first hear about the ACLU?
A: I’m not sure when I first heard about the ACLU in general, but I didn’t realize that each state had its own branch of the ACLU until a few years ago. I signed up to be on the email list for the ACLU of South Dakota as soon as I found out about it, and I’ve been getting involved in opportunities whenever I can since then.
Q: Which of the ACLU’s issue areas are you particularly passionate about and why?
A: I’m really passionate about reproductive freedom, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights. Over the past few years, I’ve become much more aware of the inequalities and injustices around me and more interested in intersectional feminism at the same time. I want to combat all the negative effects of patriarchy and increase gender equity in the world. At some point, it became clear to me that fighting for reproductive rights and women’s rights every chance I get is the only way to work toward the world I want to see. I also think that being an LGBTQ+ ally is inherently feminist because LGBTQ+ people are negatively affected the restraints imposed by patriarchy in their own way. For me, feminism is for everyone, and I want to include everyone in the feminist movement. Some of my closest friends are also in the LGBTQ+ community, and my love for them encourages me to stand up to homophobia and transphobia wherever I see it.
Q: What is your favorite way to get involved in your community?
A: I really enjoy finding volunteer opportunities that allow me to work with like-minded people and talk to the people in my community about the issues that I care about. I have phone banked with the ACLU of South Dakota a few times, and I volunteer regularly with ballot initiative and issue campaigns in South Dakota by canvassing and talking to voters. I’m kind of shy person by nature, but once I get out there, it’s really empowering and makes me more passionate about the causes I’m working on.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to be involved in their communities?
A: It’s important because there’s so much out there that that needs to change, and nothing will change unless we do something about it. That sounds kind of cliché, but for a long time, I just assumed that someone else was working to solve the problems in the world and that I didn’t have anything substantial to contribute to those efforts. At some point, I realized that I didn’t need any particular skills or expertise to get involved with the causes I cared about—I just had to give my time and my passion. Also, there can never be too many people working to solve a problem in society. In most cases, community organizations are looking for as many people as they can find.
Q: Do you consider yourself a change maker? Why?
A: I think at the very least I would consider myself to be someone who tries to make change. I mean, the reality is that trying to create change can be really difficult, and things don’t always work out. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth trying or that it won’t work out eventually with persistence. Also, I’m almost never creating change by myself, so I think it’s more accurate to describe myself as someone who contributes to change. Working with others who have different experiences, skills, and expertise makes change a lot more possible.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in getting more politically involved in their community?
A: I would say to start by finding out what local organizations work on the issues that you care about and then follow them on social media and sign up to be on their mailing list. That’s the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening in your community and how you can get involved. Then, when an opportunity to get involved comes along, just go for it! Even if it’s something you’ve never done before or feel nervous about, try it and see how it goes. And if you don’t like the first thing you try, keep trying out other opportunities, and you’ll eventually find something that you really enjoy.
Q: Which of the Constitution’s amendments are most important to you and why?
A: I would say that the First Amendment is really important to me because I believe that the rights to freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and petitioning the government are the foundations of a strong democracy. There are a lot of things I’d like to change about society and the government, and the First Amendment guarantees me some important freedoms that I need to make those changes. The 14th Amendment is also really important to me because it forms the foundation of the right to privacy that was used to protect the right to birth control in Griswold v. Connecticut and the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.
Q: What issues do you think are most important for South Dakotans to pay attention to?
A: Right now, I think that voting rights and LGBTQ+ rights are the most important to pay attention to. The state legislature will be redrawing district lines in the state following the 2020 census, and how they draw those lines has tremendous implications for representation and policy in our state. In the past, South Dakota has gotten in trouble for gerrymandering districts to dilute Native American representation, and the current district lines are also problematic due to partisan gerrymandering. This means that it is incredibly important to closely watch the state legislature to make sure that they draw the lines fairly.
LGBTQ+ rights are also super important to pay attention to because the South Dakota state legislature has a history of trying to pass homophobic and transphobic legislation. Every year, I watch my LGBTQ+ friends feel alienated and attacked as their elected officials propose and vote on bills that affect their wellbeing and everyday lives. I believe that we can make our state a safer and more inclusive place for everyone, and that starts with paying attention to the legislature’s attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and doing everything we can to stop them.