Marion Sanchez is a community engagement consultant for the City of Austin, Texas.
What is one important thing that we Americans can do together that we can’t do alone?
Together, we can understand diversity as a collective process.
What about your country, state, or community makes you proud? How do you think government interacts with that?
We have a beautiful landscape with different ecosystems.
What do you think it means to be a good citizen?
To start with the basics, being a good citizen means you have to vote and to live a decent life. Beyond the basics, it’s important to participate in the decision-making process. A lot of the time, we find individuals are upset about something and they don’t realize they have the power to make change if they choose to participate.
What one word describes our government as it is?
What one word do you wish described our government?
If you could run any government program or agency, real or imaginary, at any level of government, what would it be and what would you do there?
I would want to improve our ability to provide resources in the languages of our communities.
What thing that government does do you think would surprise most Americans?
I think most Americans would be surprised by how much government cares for the community.
What is your first memory of an interaction with government?
When I became a U.S. citizen. It was probably 15 years ago. I applied for my naturalization, and I needed to take a test. I was nervous, almost scared. We were supposed to sit in a big room together, and because I was so scared, they let me take the test in a separate room alone. I passed the test and became a citizen. I was sworn in at the first ceremony ever held in Austin, Texas. Our congressman, Lloyd Doggett was there. We brought our flags and our families – even Univision was there. We got a letter from the President. It was a very proud day.
What was your most recent government interaction?
Outside of my role as a public servant, I’ve seen a lot of signs and discussion of people running for office today. I’m excited about people and leaders in our community running for office. I have hope that our government will be run by the people, and that gets me really excited.
What is your favorite thing that government does?
I send my kids to school, and they come home with more knowledge. They learn math, writing, language, but they also learn about art, to play an instrument, to perform in the theater, to play sports, how to drive. And our teachers working harder, even raising money for students who cannot afford school uniforms out of their own pay. It’s a sign that we care. And we can do even more.
Who is your government hero who is not an elected official?
Martha Cotera, a community leader and a dear friend of mine for 20+years, is my government hero. She started the Chicano movement in the Valley. In addition to all the work she’s done as a leader, she’s taken the time to document the narrative of Latinos in Central Texas about the struggle to have a better quality of life. That’s taking volunteering to another level: not just volunteering, but thinking about it and writing about it for the next generation. So it can be passed on.
In the same vein, Sylvia Orozco, who has done similar work in the art community, where we can see the narrative of where we are to do. She’s creating and maintaining an art archive that describes the struggle of the Latino community.
ImagineGov: If government could be anything, if government was what we want and aspire for it to be, what would it be or do?
A better government would be easy to access. Instead of centralizing the influence in one place or one building, it would have smaller buildings in neighborhoods to offer different services. We have that to an extent in Austin, but we could do better to fragment the offices so that people could easily walk into buildings in their neighborhood to seek services or information.
Name someone whose answers to these questions you would like to read.
I’d love to hear from the Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, and the youngest member of the Austin City Council ever, Gregory “Greg” Casar. He’s quite a leader, and I love to hear what he has to say about services.
An Interview with Indivisible.