In my government/economics class in high school, my teacher tried to teach out of the box and relate the lessons to relevant, current events. He spent a day talking about this woman, a Somali-American working-class mother, a refugee, an American citizen who didn't look like everyone else in politics but was using her voice to change things that she saw as wrong.
This woman was Ilhan Omar, and she has recently become the first Somali-American woman—and one of the first two Muslim women—to be elected to Congress. Omar first made her journey to America as a refugee—she was born in Somalia and she and her family fled during the first Somali civil war when she was eight-years-old. They spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to the United States in 1997.
In 2016, Omar became the first Somali-American and Muslim legislator in the United States, and her campaign team increased voter turnout that year by 37%. She was then elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives and continued climbing the ladder until she was elected to Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.
Okay, awesome, she's made history, but why do I admire her so much? Let's start with the fact that she uses her platform as a politician to actually enact useful change: she is pushing for a $15 minimum wage, subsidizing higher education costs for low-income students, and is one of the highest proponents for canceling the crushing student debt faced by most college students in the country.
Outside of improving quality of life and decreasing debt for as many people as possible in the United States, Omar is working to make sure that people of all faiths and beliefs are recognized and respected throughout the country. She is actively advocating to lift the ban on headwear on the House floor. Democrats introduced the proposal to remove the ban, and Omar has vocally shown her support on social media, posting on Twitter and Instagram, "No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It's my choice—one protected by the first amendment."
This rule regarding headwear states that a House member cannot enter the House "with his head covered," a rule that extends to not allow religious headwear in the House of Representatives. By advocating for the lifting of this ban, Omar is not only protecting her freedom but the freedom of any future members of Congress who may be affected by this same problem. She is paving the way for people of color and different religions to take their places and use their voices in government.
So far, Ilhan Omar has proven that women of color have a place in Washington and voices that need to be heard. She is for the people, and I, for one, am ready to see everything that she will achieve as she continues climbing up the political ladder in the United States of America.