Dreams do not come to one through thinking and wishing, dreams are made for those willing to go through hurdles and obstacles. Dreams come to the resilient, those willing to preserve and those able to turn hardship into power and courage. Ilhan Omar is one such individual. Her dream unlike many in her circumstance all began with a vision to become a leader. There was no one in her community to emulate, but She believed in her ability to achieve such feat once only reserved for a certain group who were usually rich, well connected with certain family pedigree.
This young woman was unstoppable from the word go. She didn’t see herself different from the cadre of individuals who dream big, she set out to achieve her goals despite being a Muslim young woman from a refugee background. To Ilhan being a refugee was mere description of her past and her Hijab is power to her identity. She is fierce in her journey to be a trailblazer not only for Muslim girls, but for all girls of all hues.
On November 6, 2018, Ilhan Omar was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota. She is an example to emulate, and like other women before her who were daring and unapologetic she proved wrong those thinking America only belongs to some. In this Trump era of racism and the hurandeous Muslim ban that would halt refugee girls with dream like Ilhan, this Muslim new Congress woman proves to us to never allow negativity, hate and racism to interfere with our goals and aspirations. Her presence in this historic congress proves the humanity that overrides negativity and division.
Ilhan’s victory has been a historic one on many fronts:
1. Ilhan is the first Somali-American ever elected to the House of Representatives.
2. Ilhan is the first refugee ever elected to Congress. During the 1991 civil war, she and her family fled to Kenya where she spent four years in a refugee camp. Her family was resettled in the U.S. in the mid- 1990s.
3. Ilhan and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan are the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress. The two made history last November as newly-elected Congresswomen.
4. Ilhan is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress who wears a Hijab.
5. Ilhan is the first woman of color ever elected to the House of Representative from Minnesota.
“My father had big dreams for all his children,” Ilhan said in tears after she was sworn in, “but seeing his youngest child elected to Congress was not one of them.”
Ilhan’s unique accomplishments were once unthinkable. Like many Somali refugees in Kenya, her biggest concern was surviving and staying safe. Her parents had lost everything they owned and were penniless when they arrived in Kenya, a neighboring country to Somalia.
The United States government gave a second chance to thousands of Somalis when they were admitted to America and settled in some parts of the country. Of course, there are still thousands of Somali refugees in Kenyan camps. But Ilhan and her family were fortunate for the opportunity. No one thought young Ilhan would one day become a Congresswoman.
Ilhan is a beacon of hope for many former refugees and immigrants, a hope that they can fulfill their dreams. Ilhan comes from a country which is in recovery mode after more than two decades of civil war. As a woman, she proved that she can compete with anyone. She was not elected because she is black, or Muslim, or a former refugee. She won because she was the best person the voters of Minnesota’s 5th District believed can represent them in Congress, recognizing her unique leadership qualities.
The diverse people she represents speak power to truth by electing a young Muslim woman of Somali origin to the most powerful halls of the US. Ilhan rides on the shoulders of Shirley Chisum, Barbara Jordan and other women of color who were also firsts in their success to bulldoze the huge wall of inequality and injustice to become congresswoman in an era of backwardness and inequality in America. Women like Ilhan are not born to defeat, they are born bold and brave with laser focus vision and change in their demeanor.
Ilhan is a testament that America is a better country when it welcomes immigrants instead of shunning them; gives them opportunities not demeans them; invests in diversity, not isolates itself. Under the current United States immigration policy, someone like Ilhan would never have been allowed to enter and settle in the country because Somalia is one of the six Muslim countries under Trump’s travel ban. Ilhan’s victory puts a hole in the notion that all refugees are dangerous to America’s social and cultural fabric. In fact, refugees and immigrants are assets, not liabilities.
Ilhan is outspoken, and daring and history will never forget her struggle to pave the way for all women and girls who face obstacle, and the corridors of congress will remember her impactful footprint.
And so its with great excitement for WardheerNews to choose Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as the 2018 person of the year.
– WDN Person of the year 2017: Fahad Yasin
–WDN Person of the year 2016: Hassan Abukar and Faisal Roble
– WDN Person of the Year 2015: Ahmed Hussen, the new Canadian member of Parliament
– WDN Person of the year 2014:Somali Week Festival (SWF) and Hargeisa International Book Fair (HIBF)
– WDN Person of the year 2013: Said Salah
– WDN Person of the year 2012: Somali youth
–WDN Person of the year 2011: Sharif Hassan Sh. Adan
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