On the road to Philly: Pasquale Luz

One man proudly representing generations of immigrants

Family photos tell the story of just how many of Pasquale Luz’s 24 years have been spent in politics as well as how important it has been for his family, descendants of immigrants, to let their voices be heard.

Currently a resident of Dubuque, Luz grew up in Chicago where his mother, grandmothers and aunt were very involved with the National Organization for Women.

“As far as I can remember, I’ve always been involved and attending political rallies,” Luz said. “My mom has a picture of us marching on Washington, D.C. before I could actually march. I was carried along the route.”

When he was older, Luz worked on political campaigns and for the local Democratic Party going door-to-door and making phone calls. He helped a family friend and neighbor who became an Illinois senator. He also helped his uncle, Fred Crespo, with his successful election to the Illinois House.

“So, when I decided that I wanted to go to college, I had to come to Iowa. Where else would I want to be?” Luz asked with a laugh, noting that there is no state better for a young person who is interested in politics.

Pasquale Luz at the November 2015 Presidential Debate hosted by Drake University and the Iowa Democratic Party. (submitted photo)
Pasquale Luz at the November 2015 Presidential Debate hosted by Drake University and the Iowa Democratic Party. (submitted photo)

He was active with the Loras College Democrats while he was in school and, his senior year, signed on as a staffer with Pat Murphy’s congressional campaign. In fact, after college he moved with his family to Arizona and began working with that state’s Democratic Party. But when Murphy launched his second 1st District campaign, Luz returned to Dubuque.

He became a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia happening at the end of this month at the 1st District Democratic Convention in April, after giving an impassioned speech about his and his family’s support for Hillary Clinton.

“Being involved alongside my family members with the National Organization for Women, I heard a lot of about Hillary Clinton,” he said.

“I can remember my grandma always talking about her and telling me, ‘You just wait. She will be president one day.’”

As part of his speech and presentation on why 1st District should elect him as a national delegate for Clinton, Luz showed a photo of his mom and two grandmothers. His paternal grandmother came to the U.S. from the Philippines. His maternal grandmother is from Mexico. His mother (and father) served in the U.S. Army, his mom completing tours as a part of Desert Storm in Iraq and Kuwait. All of the women are avid Clinton supporters.

“When I met Hillary Clinton in Dubuque — I had only found out an hour before the event that she was coming — I quickly printed out this photo of my mom and grandmothers,” Luz said. “So it’s this black-and-white printed photo with a message of thank you to Hillary Clinton and all of their signatures.”

He spoke a bit about Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric on immigrants while pointing at his grandmothers in the photograph. “Donald Trump needs to know there are some who would beg to differ,” he said.

There is, of course, no doubt that Luz will support Clinton’s nomination in Philadelphia, but even he will tell you that everything still feels a bit surreal.

“I don’t think it will sink in until that day,” he said. “Casting that vote, I guess, isn’t something I’ve thought that much about because it still is hard to believe that after all this time it is really going to happen. It will be amazing, something that my entire life has been leading to, but I don’t know what my reaction will be to that moment.”

Although Bernie Sanders endorsed the Clinton nomination this week, Luz is aware that some Sanders supporters may still push for a nomination and vote. He believes Clinton will win that contest and hopes that afterward the Sanders supporters will give Clinton a second look.

“I am so proud to be supporting a Democrat that shares my values and so much of what I personally believe,” he said. “My hope is that those who now support Sanders will do their own research on Clinton and not automatically believe what’s been said. I want them to look beyond the talking points, look long and hard at the work she has done and her accomplishments.”

Luz says one of his most fond memories of Clinton was an Op-Ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal before the 2008 election. It was titled, “Let’s keep people in their homes,” and detailed Clinton’s response to the housing crisis.

“It was a personal issue for our family, since we were directly and negatively impacted by the mortgage crisis,” he said.

“What I remember from that time is how everyone seemed to be running around and looking for someone to blame. It was sort of like it is today, in that real issues weren’t really being addressed. But Hillary Clinton wrote this column and rolled out a plan to fix what was wrong. She actually tried to solve the problem to help people like us restructure predatory loans so that we could stay in our home. I think that is really indicative of the type of person and legislator she is, that she focuses on getting the job done.”

Like many national delegates, Luz has set up an online fundraising page to solicit donations for travel expenses, which he’s keeping low by sharing a hotel room with four other delegates. The Dubuque County Democrats also held a dinner and pie supper, with proceeds going to Luz and the county’s other national delegate, Kate Larson, a Sanders supporter. That so many have opened their wallets so that he can travel to Philadelphia and be part of such a historic moment is humbling, Luz said.

“I keep thinking about my family and of all the things we as the children and grandchildren of immigrants have opportunity to accomplish and how we are a vital part of the fabric of this nation,” Luz said, speaking not only of the upcoming convention but of his parents’ service in the military and the scholarship that is helping his twin siblings study at Arizona State University.

“When you consider it, it really is remarkable, and a very big part of why I think we need someone like Hillary Clinton as president. She is willing to fight for families like ours.”

In the coming days, I’ll introduce more national delegates from Eastern Iowa, and will continue to follow the entire group throughout the convention.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on July 17, 2016.