I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, the eldest of five kids in an Arab-American family. I was in high school on September 11th, 2001. My family was heartbroken about the losses our country endured and saddened at the resulting fear and misunderstanding toward the Muslim and Arab-American communities. My small town was no exception—our community members were confused about what it meant to have Arab-American and Muslim neighbors.
Rather than let this fear and misunderstanding paralyze our community, my family organized a training series at our local library. We worked with an amazing librarian to hold dialogues about what it means to be Muslim and Arab-American—providing our community with an opportunity to talk about national issues and how they impacted our small town.
I remember the night of the first session in the series very clearly. My mom and I made hummus and other homemade Lebanese treats, and my dad showed up just in time to see the large room become standing-room only. I will never forget the look of pride on my dad’s face when he realized how invested our friends, community members, and neighbors were in constructive dialogue. That training series changed my life, and helped spark the healing process in our community. A light bulb went off in my head that night about the power of individuals to create lasting change in their communities.
I spent the next few years honing my skills as an organizer in other contexts. In the summer of 2007, I read The Audacity of Hope in one sitting, finishing it at 2:00 a.m. I put the book down knowing I needed to be a part of the vision then-Senator Obama had laid out in his book.
I had a friend who was working for the Obama campaign at the time, and he passed my contact details on to the team in Iowa. One day I received a call from a campaign staffer in Iowa. I almost dropped my phone as I exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for your call!”
A week later, I packed up my life, borrowed my best friend’s car, and packed up $600 in savings along with a very large winter coat. I headed to Iowa to be the change I wanted to see in the world, and I haven’t looked back since.
During the 2008 campaign, I organized at all levels—working in Iowa, Idaho, Texas, Mississippi, Indiana, Colorado, and Virginia. Over the last four years, I have seen thousands of folks realize the power they have to make a difference in their communities. I am so honored to be able to do work that inspires and moves me every day—it’s intoxicating.
Today, as National Training Director of Obama for America, my team and I work across all levels of the organization, from HQ staffers to fall fellows, making sure that everybody has the skills they need to be the best they can be. The best part of my job? Seeing light bulbs go off in people’s heads every day.