“In Arabic, my name means ‘precious stone.’ In English, it means 17 different spellings on my Starbucks cup.” This is how the campaign video for 34-year-old Congress-hopeful Fayrouz Saad begins.
Saad, a “proud progressive,” announced her candidacy in July 2017, and if she’s elected into the seat for Michigan’s 11th District — now filled by Republican Dave Trott — she’ll be making history as the first Muslim congresswoman.
— Fayrouz Saad (@FayrouzSaad) July 13, 2017
Here’s everything you need to know about the female Democrat who intends to break down barriers and flip her district blue.
Fayrouz Saad is a daughter of immigrants
“I say quite simply that I am the product of the American Dream,” Saad told Amna Nawaz on ABC’s “Uncomfortable” series.
Her parents came to the U.S. from Lebanon over 40 years ago and started a small meat wholesale business in Detroit’s Eastern Market. “I watched them be successful. I watched them integrate into America,” Saad, one of six siblings, said. “They really inspired me, and seeing the success that they were able to have, I entered into a career in public service because of that.”
Fayrouz Saad worked under the Obama administration
Saad graduated from the University of Michigan and started her political career as a field organizer for John Kerry’s presidential campaign where she also conducted Arab American outreach (she did the same for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, too). She worked in local politics until she was appointed by President Obama to serve in the Department of Homeland Security. In this role she helped manage response efforts to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
You can read more about her politicial career on her campaign website.
Fayrouz Saad wants you to ask her questions about her identity
“I can help inform things in a way that others won’t be able to,” Saad said, pointing to her experience as a woman, minority and Muslim.
“We need to send more people to Washington who bring diverse opinions, who come from diverse backgrounds,” Saad continued, “because if we’re going to have a representative democracy and a representative government … those elected leaders should also look, act and sound like us.”
To anyone who has their doubts about a Muslim representing them in Congress, Saad says, “Let me tell you about myself. Let me tell you my story. Let me tell you why we’re alike and not different.”
Fayrouz Saad has progressive values but is all about communication
Saad believes her district, northwest of Detroit, “needs” her progressive values. Among other objectives, she wants to protect Dreamers and fight for equal pay, affordable childcare and “fair” parental leave policies.
We can’t allow #DREAMers to be deported. I know how valuable #DACA recipients are to our communities in Southeast Michigan. Congress must do the right thing and extend #DACA today! pic.twitter.com/rZMkJlFeuj
— Fayrouz Saad for Congress (@SaadforCongress) December 18, 2017
Saad says she’s willing to talk about “everything from universal healthcare to protecting our environment” to other issues like “how to promote our small businesses,” which is rooted in her own family history.
The 11th District has expressed their frustration with Rep. Trott in the past due to his lack of communication and his support of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Take, for instance, last February when he didn’t show up to a town hall and, to fill his absence, a live chicken was brought in by constituents (true story). He announced in September that he would not be running for re-election in 2018.
So, the Democratic candidate has a message for her district: “We align on a lot of common values, and we need to talk about them. And I want to understand more about what you all believe in and what you need to see [in] an elected leader. I’m going to work with you. I’m going to work for you.”
Fayrouz Saad’s first civic engagement was registering newly naturalized citizens to vote
We asked Saad for a fast fact about her that can’t be found in her current bio. Through a spokesperson, she told Metro that as her first action to make a difference in her community, she worked to register newly naturalized citizens to vote.
“Seeing how much people valued the opportunity to contribute to America — to participate in self-government and to build on the American Dream so that their communities are even more welcoming and prosperous for the next generation — that remains a huge inspiration,” Saad said.
Fayrouz Saad is running because of Trump
“My parents came here simply in search of the American Dream,” Saad told Refinery29. “I always thought that I would eventually run for office, but Donald Trump certainly sped up my timeline because for the first time in my entire life I see that American Dream threatened.”
When asked by ABC’s Amna Nawaz what it’s like being an Arab under the Trump administration, Saad said, “It’s hard, but it is also what pushes me every single day. It’s a constant reminder of why I have to do what I’m doing because I need to fight back.”
In terms of whether or not running to make history as the first Muslim woman in Congress intimidates her, Saad says, “It inspires me, and I’m certainly up for the challenge.”
“You may not be able to spell my name,” Saad declares at the end of her campaign video, “but you’ll get to know my face.”
WATCH: Fayrouz Saad campaign video
Democratic Party primary election day across all Michigan districts is August 7, 2018.