Ilhan Omar Surprise Visit to Somali Language and Culture Class

Ilhan Omar Surprise Visit to Somali Language and Culture Class

Representative Ilhan Omar surprised students in Minneapolis College’s Somali class when she visited their class as a guest speaker in late October. Rep. Omar was invited by the course instructor Abdullahi Aden.

Aden, who describes himself as a community builder, invited Rep. Omar to be a guest speaker because of the impact she had made in her community. “I didn’t even tell my students in advance and then they were surprised,” said Aden. “They could not believe it when they saw her.”

Majority of Aden’s students are East African, if not Somali, and he seeks opportunities for his students to interact with prominent members of the East African community. The class’s format includes Somali language and ties in history and culture as well.

“When you talk about the history of Somali language and culture you cannot skip Somali diaspora success,” said Aden.  Rep. Omar made history as the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress as well as the first of two Muslim women to serve in Congress.

“I invite notable people who have made a contribution to the community,” said Aden. He has also invited Rep. Mohamud Noor to speak to his class.  “I always invite them to speak about their experience. That experience itself can create inspiration.”

During his time as a school counselor in the Minneapolis Public School system, Aden learned the importance of inspiring students through connecting them with successful and impactful people from their communities. “I have seen how role models play a role, meaning it shows how somebody who is successful will inspire others. That is a powerful thing to do.”

Before letting the class ask her questions, Rep. Omar introduced herself, talked about her role in Congress. Aden said that his students asked Rep. Omar about a range of topics from the Unpaid Meal Debt Act to student loan forgiveness.

“It was informative,” said student Christian King. “I had concerns about the student loans situation so getting more information on that, that I could pass on to very concerned friends was extremely beneficial.”

King is one of the three students who is not a native speaker of the Somali language. Aden encourages non-Native speakers to join the class to connect different communities and cultures. “If you know the language, that is the bridge,” said Aden.

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