We the People is a blog series that features the stories of members, supporters, volunteers, and allies of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming. Together we are accomplishing critical work in our state to protect and advance civil liberties across the Midwest and beyond.
Pat Kondas is a retired university instructor, Red Cross volunteer, and ACLU of Wyoming supporter. Get to know her today, and hear more about the work she's doing across our state.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a retired university instructor (film studies, English, and journalism). My husband and I retired in 2013 and returned to Wyoming after 22 years in Washington state. (I'm originally from Rock Springs; RSHS class of 1965). We moved back to my husband's family's ranch near Wheatland that they've been on since 1878. We renovated the original log homestead house and we live for the most part undisturbed by the ghosts of the generations of previous occupants.
I've been a Red Cross volunteer since 2008, deploying both regionally and nationally in public affairs. I'm also the public information officer for Platte County Emergency Management and Platte County Public Health.
I have a bachelors degree in Psychology and an MA in Journalism/Telecommunications from the University of Wyoming and an MFA in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University.
When did you first hear about the ACLU and why did you want to get involved?
I first heard about the ACLU in the 1960s while growing up in a chaotic era not unlike that of today, and I had friends with personal experience with the ACLU. Why did I want to get involved? Somebody has to. As Bob Dylan said in his song, "Up to Me":
"If I'd thought about it I never would've done it
I guess I would've let it slide
If I'd paid attention to what others were thinkin'
The heart inside me would've died
But I was just too stubborn to ever be governed by enforced insanity
Someone had to reach for the risin' star
I guess it was up to me."
In your last ACLU blog, you told Maru’s story of being an interpreter. Why is this topic important to you?
I'm a descendant of immigrants (my grandfather and great-grandfather immigrated from Greece), and I also have native-born ancestors (as indicated in my first blog for ACLU of Wyoming, my great-great-grandfather Merced Lucero became a citizen by default after the Mexican Cession in 1848).
Maru was born in Mexico City and learned English on her own; my family's first language was Spanish. I first met Maru on a Red Cross deployment in 2012; she was a volunteer from Denver, I was from Spokane at the time. We discussed the problems of being judged because of one's accent or appearance. We have remained online friends and when I learned of her experience as an interpreter for immigrants seeking asylum, I found it compelling and asked her if I could tell her story. She humbly agreed, if it would help get the bigger story out there.
How does the ACLU and our work relate to you personally? Are there any issues you feel most connected to?
I've worked with many different populations. When I was in Washington, I volunteered with the local food bank, where I had to survey clients. One question asked if they had ever not eaten so their kids could eat; a heartbreaking number said yes.
I've had deaths in my family because of lack of health insurance.
I've had friends face unfair legal judgments.
I have friends in the LGBTQ community and I know the problems they've faced.
I live in a community where one in four people is over age 65.
I live in a community that is very agricultural and aware of environmental and land use issues.
Wealth inequality and the concomitant issues – lack of access to health care and education, homelessness, and inadequate knowledge of rights or legal representation – are subjects I'm very interested in, besides immigration and other issues. Living in one of the reddest of the red states, I appreciate having an organization like the ACLU to raise awareness and represent those who are underserved.
Are you originally from Wyoming?
I was born in Rock Springs and lived with my grandparents in Reliance, where my grandfather was a coal miner until the mines closed. I've lived in different places – San Francisco, Denver, Spokane – but I've always come back to Wyoming.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining the ACLU as a volunteer or member?
I would tell them the same thing I tell people who ask me about becoming a Red Cross volunteer: I would not presume to recommend it to anyone. I tell them about the organization and what I do, and they can decide if it's right for them. It's not for everyone; they have to decide for themselves if they want to commit.