Thinking Citizen Blog — First Naturalized Citizen of African Descent in Congress

Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day

Today’s Topic: Ilhan Omar — First Naturalized Citizen of African Descent in Congress

Omar was born in Somalia and was raised by her father (a colonel in the Somali army of dictator Siad Barre) and her grandfather (the director of Somalia’s National Marine Transport). Her mother had died when Ilhan was only two. When Barre was overthrown in 1991 (after ruling Somalia since 1969), the family fled Somalia and lived for four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before being granted asylum in the United States in 1995. Ilhan became a US citizen in 2000 at the age of 17. She graduated from high school in 2001 and from college in 2011. Between 2006 and 2009 she was a “community nutrition educator” at the University of Minnesota. She served in the Minneapolis House of Representatives from 2017 to 2019 and was elected to the US Congress in 2018 (with 78% of the vote) and again in 2020 (with 64% of the vote). She is perhaps most famous as a member of the original “Squad,” an informal group of progressive women of color elected to Congress in 2018. The other three original members were: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY), Ayanna Presley (MA), and Rashida Tlaib (MI). Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Omar serves as whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has advocated for a living wage, affordable housing, universal healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness, the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

2. “A frequent critic of Israel, Omar has denounced its settlement policy and military campaigns in the occupied Palestinian territories, and what she describes as the influence of pro-Israel lobbies.”

3. “Following the death of Floyd, Omar supported the police abolition movement in Minneapolis that sought to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”

QUOTES — America, Trump, Israel

1. “I am America’s hope and the President’s nightmare.” (2018)

2. “I am much more interested in defending my ideas than defending my identities.” (2018)

3. “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the the world and make them see the evil doings of Israel” (2012) She subsequently apologized for not disavowing “the anti-semitic trope I unknowingly used.” However, her criticisms of Israel led to her being banned from traveling there.

THE MINNESOTA PARADOX — the most Scandinavian, the most Somali

1. Minnesota has the most Scandinavians (1.6 million) and the most Somalis (52,000) of any state.

2. The 5th Congressional District, which Omar represents, is the most Democratic district in the state and in the Upper Midwest generally. It includes Minneapolis, the most populous city in Minnesota, but Minneapolis is only 11% of the combined statistical area of which it is a part — the 16th largest metropolitan area in the US. (And, in case, you have forgotten, St. Paul, not Minneapolis is the capital of Minnesota.)

3. Minneapolis is roughly 60% non-Hispanic white, 20% African American, and 10% Hispanic.


Isn’t it amazing that the US Congressional representative of the largest city in the the most Scandinavian of US states is a Muslim woman and immigrant from a war-torn African country?


1. Omar has been married three times.

2. She has three children. Her daughter Isra Hirsi is an environmental activist.

3. Her sister (Sahra Noor) is the CEO of People’s Center Health Services in Minneapolis.

NB: She is the first member of Congress to wear a Hiqab and was sworn in on her grandfather’s copy of the Quran.

Ilhan Omar is unlike anyone who has served in Congress. This is her complicated American story.

Ilhan Omar is unlike anyone who has served in Congress. This is her complicated American story.

40 Under 40: Sahra Noor — Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to political process or campaign strategy or 2020 candidate selection or anything else for that matter.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day or change their thinking. Or to consolidate in your own memory something worth remembering that might otherwise be lost. Or to clarify or deepen your own understanding of something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.