Ilhan Omar

Representation Matters - Feb. 2, 2023

Ilhan Omar
February 02, 2023
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This debate today, it's about who gets to be an American. What opinions do we get to have? Do we have to have to be counted as Americans? This is what this debate is about, madam speaker. There is this idea that you are suspected if you are an immigrant. or if you are from certain parts of the world or a certain skin tone or a Muslim. It is no accident that members of the republican party accuse the first black president, Barack Obama, of being a secret Muslim.

It is no accident that former president Donald Trump let a birther -- led a birther movement that he was falsely born in Kenya. because falsely labeling first and only president of the united states of America, a Muslim, an African immigrant, somehow made him less American. Well, I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. and, interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?

Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced? Frankly, it is expected. Because when you push power, power pushes back. Representation matters. Continuing to expand our ideas of who is American and who can participate in the American experiment is a good thing. I am an American. an American who was sent here -- an American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in congress. A refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war. Someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp. Someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life here in the United States. And someone who believes in the American dream and the American possibility and the promise and the ability to participate in the democratic process. That is what this debate is about.

There is an idea out there that I am not -- that I do not have objective decision-making because of who I am, where I come from, and my perspective. But I reject that. We say there is nothing objective about policymaking. We all inject our perspective, our point of view, our lived experiences and the voices of our constituents. That's what democracy is about. So what is the work of the foreign affairs committee? It is not to co-sign the stated foreign policy of whatever administration is in power. It's about oversight, it's to critique and to advocate for a better path forward. But most importantly, it is to make the myth that American foreign policy is intrinsically moral a reality. So I will continue to speak up because representation matters. I will continue to speak up for little kids who wonder who is speaking up for them. I will continue to speak up for families around the world who are seeking justice. Whether they are displaced in refugee camps or they are hiding under their beds somewhere like I was, waiting for the bullets to stop. Because this child survivor of war would have wanted that, 10-year-old me would be disappointed if I didn't talk about the victims of conflict. Those that are experiencing unjust wars, atrocities, ethnic cleansing, occupation or displacement like I did.

They are looking to the international community and the United States asking for help. They look to us because the international community and the United States profess the values of protecting human rights and upholding international law. So we owe it to them not to make this so we owe it to them to make this not a myth but a reality. I didn't come to congress to be silent.. I came to congress to be their voice. My leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term. My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been. so take your votes or not. I am here to stay, and I am here to be a voice against harm around the world and advocate for a better world. I yield back.

"U.S. House of Representatives House Session." C-SPAN video. Feb. 2, 2023.