By Abdullah Hammoud
As my community was congratulating me for my election to state office, I was celebrating them — the individuals who inspired me to seek a career in public service.
The most frequent question I receive is, “Abdullah, what possessed you to run for office?” I have always said that my community, the Dearborn, Michigan community, provided my family with everything — from social freedoms to financial opportunities. My mother immigrated to Dearborn with her family in 1974 from Lebanon, the year before the start of the Lebanese civil war, in pursuit of security. My father immigrated to Dearborn in the late 1970’s, along with his brothers, in search of better job opportunities. No matter your reason for immigrating, Dearborn was the destination — an up-and-coming city that is now the home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the nation.
Our mosques neighbor our churches, and our burger joints sit side by side with our falafel shops. Driving through the city, you can feel that the residents embrace the diversity of culture, language and religion; it is the strength of the community. And running for this office of state representative was a way to give back, a way to ensure that the next generation has even greater opportunities than I ever had in the city and state I call home.
While that was and remains the truth, there was a piece of the story I had not shared, until now. In October 2015, I lost my older brother and best friend, Ali Hammoud. For those who have ever lost a loved one, you especially understand what it is like to ponder life’s greatest mystery — our purpose. In the months that followed, I reflected on that very topic with my brother top of mind.
Among an ocean of lessons about making people laugh, living to the fullest and staying true to who you are, he taught me how to be a thoughtful advocate for others — continuously demonstrating the potential every person has to make a difference through purposeful action. Ali was the individual who made you feel that the stars were an arm’s length away — all you had to do was reach out and grab them. Personal stories surfaced after his passing about his kindness and his impact on people’s lives. It was only fitting that his former employer created an annual award in his honor given to an individual who works hardest to better those around them.
“Our mosques neighbor our churches, and our burger joints sit side by side with our falafel shops. ”
Three months after Ali passed, I had the opportunity to put into action all that he instilled in me. Before this unfortunate event, I was interviewing for a new job and contemplating a return to graduate school to earn my MBA. The idea to run for office was not one that had ever crossed my mind, and yet at this time in my life, it felt right.
In the most difficult year of my family’s life, I announced my run for public office, Ali’s memory driving my bid. His voice, his values, echoed in every decision I made, proving to be most crucial to the success of the campaign. Listening to the concerns of my neighbors, speaking up for the voices that often go unheard and empowering individuals to be the change they want to see: These are all lessons Ali lived by.
My swearing-in ceremony was December 20, 2016, what would have been Ali’s 29th birthday. To the outside world, the ceremony represented a milestone in my professional career. However, to me, the day signified Ali.
As my community’s State Representative, I took my oath with my hand laying on the Quran gifted to my family after his passing. This day marked a gift to Ali, for even in his absence, he encouraged me to be an advocate for my community in the same way he was an advocate for me.
There were many struggles on this journey to find purpose, but God says, “Certainly with hardship comes ease.” I stood proud and content knowing that my purpose is my community.
There really is no place like home. And I’ve been bestowed with the honor of representing my home’s values, principles and families in our state Capitol.
Abdullah Hammoud, who was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, is the son of immigrant parents and a product of Dearborn Public Schools. Whether as a volunteer, advocate or community activist, he has consistently given back to the community that fostered his growth and success. Following a successful bid for office, Abdullah now serves as the State Representative for Michigan’s 15th District, the city of Dearborn. He is the first-ever Muslim Arab-American to represent the district, which is home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the nation.