Over the last few years, teachers have become the center of the culture war. As these tensions came to a head and teachers became more and more vilified, Sonia Galzviz wondered if her voice as a teacher in Boise School District could help contribute to the space and change the policy being made.
Galaviz was one of 45 representatives and senators who recently finished their first session in the Idaho Legislature.
“It created an opportunity for all of us to sort of learn and grow together,” Galaviz said. “I have really made some good buddies with the freshmen elected just like myself. We’re all learning together.”
Another highlight of Galaviz’ first term has been the conversations she’s had with others. She enjoys connecting with people across the state, discussing their local issues and trying and find middle ground to do the work of the people of Idaho.
Galaviz said being a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican legislature means Democrats have to work twice as hard to make the same gains. She also has had to pay attention to her gender and political part in this environment. Galaviz said it’s caused inner conflict knowing what to say and when and how to say it — and whether she’s even the one that should say something.
“I’m working on negotiating that space and making sure I stay true to myself and recognizing the expertise in the particular perspective that I bring as a woman of color, as an educator of 20 years, as someone who’s grown up here in Idaho as someone who is also LDS,” Galaviz said. “I’m just making sure I’m staying true to all of those things in that space.”
Galaviz is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was raised by converts: a formerly Catholic father and a formerly Protestant mother.
“They were never threatened by other religions,” Galaviz said. “I was allowed to go to other churches with my friends or go to Mass with my aunts and uncles and do all those things. I grew up in a sort of holistic view of different people’s, faith and religions, and all it did was make mine stronger.”
One pillar of the Latter-day Saint faith guiding Galaviz is the ideas of community, service and taking care of each other.
“I try to see that in this legislative space,” Galaviz said. “How do we take care of each other? How can I make sure I’m seeing (people living in other counties’) point of view and respect where they’re coming from, even though it might be different than my own? When things get really tense and people maybe are being unkind or bad actors down there, I just try to remember the principles of patience and being Christlike, and just trying to see the person and not the politics. Sometimes it’s hard.”
Another principle guiding Galaviz is the gospel principles of love and inclusion.
“We have never been taught to be hateful to others,” Galaviz said. “We’ve never been taught to be discriminatory to others. When I see legislation that is meant to marginalize and hurt certain communities, I do not feel like that lines up with the principles of the Gospel.”
Galaviz said her faith even informs her decisions on culture war issues such as abortion.
“Me personally, my faith, that’s a hard no for me,” Galaviz said, speaking of abortion. “That’s not something I can do. However. for me to assume that I can make everybody else’s decision and dictate their medical treatment for whatever they’re going through seems outside the scope of what my job is. So sometimes I have to reconcile what’s my faith and what I am in charge of for me and what is everybody else in charge of for their own person.”
In these moments of tension, Galaviz said she relies on core foundations and principles and tries to bring policy that is loving and inclusive and does not make people feel bad for who they are or for their private decisions.
Galaviz expressed gratitude for the women who have come before her and lain the path for her to become a legislator.
“I fully recognize that I am allowed this fortune and that I’m given this opportunity to be here because of those that have come before me and so I want to honor them,” Galaviz said. “I also want to honor those women that have inspired me, encouraged me, educated me and loved me in a way that made me feel like I was worthy and I was able and capable to do hard things.”
One woman who inspires Galaviz is Representative Julie Yamamoto, who serves as the chair of the House Education Committee on which Galaviz sits.
“She is such a fierce woman, but people wouldn’t know the power and fire she carries in her,” Galaviz said. “She carries herself in a way that is kind and gracious and loving, but also will not put up with shenanigans. She can command a room. She knows how to run a meeting and will expertly weave presentations to help us understand and be better informed to be able to vote on a bill.”
Galaviz said she would be honored to sit on another committee with Yamamoto.
“She’s incredible and a complete inspiration,” Galaviz said. “We are not of the same faith, but we are both women of faith. We are not of the same political party, but we are both committed to doing the work of Idaho people, and both committed to education. I feel honored to be on her committee. She has taken an enormous amount of heat this legislative session. She does so with grace and a good attitude and still wants the best for everyone, and invites conversation and doesn’t back down from conflict that may come from it.”
Galaviz said there are plenty of ways for people interested in politics to get involved.
“I would encourage women to explore those areas of interest they’re interested in politics whether that’s getting involved with organizations they believe in on an activist level, being able to learn how to speak up and testify, and writing letters and talking to elected folks or getting expert opinions or bringing people together for a conversation,” Galaviz said. “I think there’s a lot of small steps that we can make as you grow your comfort, and you know experience in that realm.”
To learn more about Representative Galaviz, visit her website.