THE General Election 2017 was on the whole an inconclusive muddle, but one thing was clear: Theresa May should have worn her lucky Vivienne Westwood tartan suit. Westwood, for her part, backed the Greens and praised Jeremy Corbyn at her spring/summer 2018 combined menswear and womenswear show, calling the Labour leader “the future”. Her show harnessed all the spirit and hope that fuelled the Red fightback and directed it towards her pet project: fighting climate change. Some of the models wore shoes made of crushed Evian bottles; others sported fishnet tights with pieces of trash – crushed cans, crisp wrappers – trapped inside them. A troupe of acrobats showed off the kinetic potential of printed jersey dresses and drawstring trousers, paint-splattered denim and striped culottes. Other highlights included a Tory blue three-piece suit, worn with a plaid button-down, and smartly cut moss green and checked iterations. In a seemingly spontaneous move, Westwood took her finale on the shoulders of one, all the better to show off her neat white heels. As a show, it was full of energising clothes that were special enough to warrant purchase, even as she declared, “Buy less, choose well, make it last”.
Robert Gallucci Talks to David Remnick About Negotiating with North Korea
In a face-to-face meeting, President Obama warned his successor that America’s biggest security concern was North Korea. Since then, Pyongyang has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests, countered by a successful anti-missile test from Washington. Robert Gallucci, the chief U.S. negotiator during the last major crisis over North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program, talks with David Remnick about the value of deterrence and engagement. He notes a lack of coherence in the Trump Administration’s statements on North Korea, which seesaw between overtures toward negotiation and warnings of possible war. With leaders in each country who are “known to be impulsive,” Gallucci doesn’t see an easy resolution to the crisis.
Ammesso che Aleksej Navalnyj possa davvero presentarsi alle elezioni presidenziali del prossimo anno – le sue complesse vicende giudiziarie potrebbero costargli la candidatura – c’è da domandarsi quale delle due Russie vincerà. Più precisamente, se la Generazione Putin dei 18enni e dei loro fratelli e sorelle minori che segue il blogger-oppositore sui social network, e in particolare su YouTube, abbia consistenza politica sufficiente a costituire una piattaforma di base così travolgente a superare i sicuri brogli del presidente uscente in corsa per il quinto mandato fra presidenza e guida del governo. E soprattutto se sia in grado di innescare un qualche tipo di influenza sui più anziani, sui genitori, sui cittadini che invece all’uomo forte del Cremlino non smettono di affidarsi. Nonostante tutto.
Se n’è avuta una rappresentazione plastica ieri nel corso della festa nazionale battezzata come Giorno della Russia. Sulla via Tverskaya della capitale, che conduce proprio al Cremlino, si sono incontrate le due generazioni: quella delle famiglie che volevano assistere a un corteo storico dal sapore nazionalpopolare e propagandistico e quella dei teenager, i Tsentennials, che hanno risposto in modo importante all’appello di Navalnyj.
Il punto però è sempre quello, e in questo senso le informazioni poco sicure e verificabili che arrivano dalla federazione non agevolano il compito: capire quanti fossero davvero e soprattutto se queste mobilitazioni non siano un riflesso nello specchio della coscienza dell’Europa occidentale e libera. O abbiano in effetti un radicamento in grado di cambiare finalmente le cose.
Questo il dubbio che, a meno di non trovarsi sul campo per mesi, rimane appeso. In fondo alle elezioni del 2011 e del 2012, quando pure si tennero simili manifestazioni (anzi, a Mosca andarono in scena le più massicce dai tempi del crollo dell’Urss), i risultati furono impietosi. Di più, beffardi: il partito di Putin Russia Unita, pur con un netto calo di consensi, raccolse il 49,5% delle preferenze. Il 4 marzo dell’anno seguente, cioè appunto del 2012, l’allora premier fu rieletto per il terzo mandato alla presidenza con oltre il 60% dei consensi contro il 17% raccolto dal candidato comunista Ghennadi Ziuganov, scambiandosi di nuovo il testimone col suo fantoccio Dmitrij Anatol’evič Medvedev. Proprio Medvedev è rimasto di recente coinvolto da una bruciante inchiesta finanziata dalla fondazione di Navalnyj e diffusa con un video su YouTube, a quota 23 milioni di visualizzazioni. Quella, per aggiungere una notazione di costume, che ha issato le paperelle gialle (mutuate da una delle proprietà immobiliari del primo ministro fra cui una villa con stagno per anatre, frutto della corruzione) a simbolo della nuova protesta.
Insomma basteranno Twitter e YouTube a traghettare il presidente della Coalizione democratica, erede dell’assassinato Boris Nemcov, al Cremlino? Le migliaia di arresti di ieri (pare 750 solo a Mosca, 900 a San Pietroburgo, molti altri in oltre 200 città che hanno aderito alle proteste) parrebbero segnalare una mobilitazione ormai pervasiva eppure la sensazione che non tocchi larghissime fasce di popolazione, che in fondo non trovano molto di meglio rispetto a Putin nonostante la terribile crisi economica in cui versa il Paese di cui anche la Pussy Riot Nadežda Tolokonnikova ci ha raccontato al Wired Next Fest di Milano è ancora forte. Speriamo di sbagliarci.
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Gary Cohn, the current head of the National Economic Council, likes to say he is a fan of bad decisions. “I’m really good at making mistakes,” he told business-school students at Sacred Heart University last year. And at American University, his alma mater, in 2009: “I always saw 95 percent of my great decisions start out as bad decisions.”
Last November, when Cohn walked into Trump Tower, he didn’t expect to be making decisions of any kind. He was there, like Floyd Mayweather before and Kanye West after him, because he had been summoned. In his case, to impart the macroeconomic wisdom he possessed as president of Goldman Sachs onto the newly elected president of the United States: Donald Trump, the man the smart money said would never win.
“It was crazy,” Cohn told a friend later of the meeting, which was supposed to last 15 minutes but stretched to an hour and a half. He found himself explaining to the former star of The Apprentice why a stronger dollar led to a weaker economy. The meeting concluded with Trump wondering aloud if he should make Cohn his Treasury secretary. This was awkward because Trump’s campaign-finance chair, Steven Mnuchin, whom Cohn had worked with in the same partner class at Goldman, was sitting right there and already had dibs on the position.
Ha-ha. Trump was only kidding.
Though seriously, he later asked, what about director of the National Economic Council? Would Cohn want that job?
“That I would consider,” Cohn told him.
Afterward, Cohn’s New York cohort would debate which part of this story was the craziest: Was it that Trump had offered the job to a 26-year veteran of Goldman Sachs — a bank whose greedy sibilance Trump had repeatedly invoked on the campaign trail, and whose CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, was targeted in a campaign attack ad that the Anti-Defamation League denounced as anti-Semitic?
Or was it that Cohn — Blankfein’s longtime consigliere, Jewish, a lifelong Democrat — said yes?
“I was like, you gotta be kidding,” says one of Cohn’s colleagues at Goldman, who, like most people, saw Cohn as a technocrat, a pragmatist.
“I know he has a good heart,” says one New York society lady who supported Hillary Clinton and is friends with Cohn and his wife. “But I cannot for the life of me understand what he is doing.”
Then again, Cohn had been a trader for all of his adult life. “He has that whole feel in his body and brain and fingertips,” his pal Michael Ovitz once said, and the opportunity that Trump was presenting him got those synapses firing. Like all wealthy businessmen of a certain stature, Cohn had considered what it might be like to lead something bigger than a corporation. “Wouldn’t it be great to be a U.S. senator?” a friend remembers him saying in 2009, after Clinton stepped down from her Senate seat. “To be in a position where you could have a lot of influence in a new administration?’”
Perhaps this wasn’t the ideal administration for a man whose wife had served on the board of Planned Parenthood and whose daughter works at the Huffington Post, but in the Trump administration he would be the smartest guy in the room, and with the Republicans also controlling Congress, there was potential to make big moves. Spending on infrastructure, cutting taxes, and rolling back financial regulation had already been on Trump’s agenda. Cohn could very likely do away with the onerous restraints that had been placed on the banking industry after the mortgage crisis, like increased capital requirements and the ban on proprietary trading, which had become pet peeves of his.
“I seem to be in Washington every week trying to explain to them the unintended consequences of overregulation,” he’d complained to the Sacred Heart students. (“He was definitely one of those people that had an attitude of ‘Fuck you guys, you don’t understand what you are talking about,’ ” according to a former Obama-administration official who met with Cohn and Blankfein numerous times.)
The appointment would also be a triumphant exit from a situation that had become untenable. Although Cohn was next in line to be CEO at Goldman, Blankfein showed no signs of budging, even after he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015. Some of this reluctance reportedly stemmed from Blankfein’s assessment that the reputational damage from the financial crisis had wiped out his own chances of a public-service career. “After Gary arranged for Lloyd to get cancer, things seemed to be looking up for him,” observes one former colleague, in arch reference to the Shakespearean drama that had been playing out in the Goldman C-suite. “But unfortunately, he bounced back.”
Cohn accepted Trump’s offer. And once the public had processed the chutzpah of the swamp-draining president’s hiring no less than five alumni from Government Sachs, even liberals started wondering whether this wasn’t a terrible development. In a White House that contained Steve Bannon, Omarosa, and a random barre instructor, the presence of Goldman Sachs seemed comparatively normal. After all, we’d seen their kind before, from Robert Rubin under Clinton to Henry Paulson under Bush, and while it was true that they had wrought significant havoc, at least they had the decency to act as though they weren’t doing it on purpose. At least they were capable. And if anyone had the temperament to stand up to Donald Trump — “to steer him in a way that is least destructive,” as someone close to Cohn put it, “like how presidents would normally act?” — it might be Gary Cohn.
Growing up in Cleveland, Cohn was severely dyslexic, which at the time just meant dumb. He once heard a teacher tell his mother he’d be lucky if he became a truck driver. “I was driven, unbelievably driven,” he said at a conference last year, “to prove to myself and everyone in the world I could be successful.”
Cohn’s origin story, which appeared in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, has become Wall Street legend. Hanging out by the New York Stock Exchange on an afternoon off from his job selling window frames, he heard a guy in a suit say he was catching a cab to La Guardia; sensing a potential job opportunity, he offered to split the ride.
“Do you know what an option is?” the guy asked.
“Of course. I know everything,” Cohn bluffed.
As a trader, Cohn became known for his ability to stomach big risks, like during the crash of 1987, when he piled into bonds and ended up “looking like a giant superstar from a bet no one thought was going to happen,” according to a fellow trader. At J. Aron, a subsidiary of Goldman, he attached himself to Blankfein and became his fixer, following him up the ladder. “I solve his business problems,” he told me during a 2011 interview (the last time I spoke with him), in which he juggled a baseball bat between his thighs. “Knuckles,” “knife fights,” and “Machiavellian” are words that people use to describe the culture the pair cultivated during their rise to power, which coincided with an overall company shift that valued trading over investment banking. It made them both enormously rich — in 2007, Cohn took home $67.5 million.
Wall Street, which had been jittery about the 2016 election, was happy to have an “adult in the room,” as Cohn became known. Or “a first-class experienced adult in the room,” as Tom Barrack, an investment manager and longtime Trump friend, told me. If you could ignore what this implied about the maturity of the president, it was a comforting thought. Here was someone who might curb some of the more distressing news leaking out of the White House. (“Was it a strong one that’s good for the economy, or a weak one?” the president had reportedly asked an adviser in one late-night phone call.)
At first, it seemed to be going well. Trump loved Cohn, who was just his type. Bald as an eagle and built like a linebacker, he’s a “guy’s guy,” as one friend puts it. His self-assured confidence elicited an uncharacteristic amount of respect from his boss. And, according to Barrack, the president appreciated Cohn’s particular skill set. “The experience of somebody knowing how to run thousands of people in an organization is unique,” he says. “Where other people may have great ideas, they may not have had that talent.”
Which may have been a subtle dig at other members of the administration, who reportedly resented the ascendance of this New York Democrat, this jock who had hijacked their Make America Great Again production. Such as Reince Priebus, the less-than-alpha-male chief of staff, whom Trump was reportedly always threatening to replace with Cohn, and Steve Bannon, who clashed with Cohn over policies like remaining in the Paris climate accord. “Gary is such an enormous threat to those guys,” says the source close to Cohn’s team, who characterizes the warring factions as “chaos cheerleaders versus competence.”
Cohn’s first big appearance came with the announcement that the Department of Labor would review its fiduciary rule, meant to require financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients: “This is like putting only healthy food on the menu, because unhealthy food tastes good but you still shouldn’t eat it because you might die younger,” Cohn told The Wall Street Journal. The analogy was terrible, but Wall Street loved it because Wall Street hated the rule (which inhibited its ability to make money off the stupidity of non–Wall Street people). The stock market went up, and so did Cohn’s stock within the administration. Hope swelled in the competent faction. “What if there’s a scenario where they become the preferred advisers?” the Cohn source said to me in March. “I really — and I don’t say this lightly — think they could save the country.”
But this spring, things started to turn, as they do in the volatile market of the Trump White House. Cohn and his team, according to sources, had for months tried to get Trump’s attention on the particulars of tax reform, to no avail. Until, suddenly, they had it, when Trump promised to deliver the biggest tax cut “ever.” The subsequent press conference, at which Cohn and Mnuchin circulated a vague one-page wish list they’d evidently cooked up over the weekend, was widely ridiculed. “We will get back to you with definitive answers on all these details,” Cohn said. “We have a broad-brush view.” And finally: “Look, we will give you more details as we have them.” Then there was Trump’s interview with The Economist, where he claimed to have invented the phrase “priming the pump.”
“What’s it like working for that guy?” Cohn’s Wall Street buddy asked when he ran into him at their local diner.
Cohn smiled, or maybe gritted his teeth. “You can imagine,” he said.
After that: Russia, Comey, Kushner, Russia again, the $2 trillion error in the budget, Russia. “I thought they were supposed to make things better,” a source close to Team Competence moaned after Cohn expressed enthusiasm on television for the Republican health-care bill, which would strip health care from millions and defund organizations like Planned Parenthood.
A longtime Cohn friend simply recognized the hallmark talent of a man whose career was built around being a company’s No. 2 guy: managing up. “In general, if you work in a large organization, you support the leader,” he said. “No matter what he actually thinks.”
Meanwhile, very little was actually getting done. In mid-May, a judge found in favor of that Department of Labor rule. By that point, Cohn was focusing his energies on convincing the president to remain in the climate agreement, ahead of the G7 conference, which he and Team Competence had tightly organized so as to keep Trump in line. “His views are evolving,” Cohn told reporters in Italy. “He came here to learn, he came here to get smarter.”
Maybe it was this possibility of success that led Cohn to amble into the press area of Air Force One and start talking about coal. “It doesn’t even make that much sense anymore,” he told a reporter.
Après that, the deluge, as the Europeans say. Trump pushed around world leaders and failed to reassure NATO allies. Back home, he got into a Twitter war with the mayor of London. And meanwhile, Cohn’s comments had ignited outrage in coal country, home of Trump’s base. How much this affected Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the accord is unclear. But after the press conference in the Rose Garden, a photographer captured Cohn sitting with his head in his hand while a jazz band played “Summertime.”
A source close to Cohn suggests that his view of his opportunities within the administration have been evolving. “As with others in the West Wing who hoped to become moderating influences, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the president is utterly uncontrollable,” this person said. “At this point, are you helping? Or are you just enabling these highly controversial policies?” Or, no policies at all. “Just landed from China, trying to catch up … How did ‘infrastructure week’ go?” Blankfein trolled him on Twitter after a week of Comey testimony had blown up his agenda. The dream of “adulting” Trump may, in fact, be unworkable. So far, of all the people who have entered the administration hoping to manipulate the president, the only ones who have proved to be malleable are the would-be manipulators themselves.
Even Cohn — who, two days after the Rose Garden announcement, made an appearance on CNBC that can only be described as groveling. “We want to be in the coal business,” he said. His friends back in New York weren’t totally surprised. “It’s a bit ‘lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas,’ isn’t it?” says the society lady. Nor were those who have known Trump a long time. “I think as time goes on, you will see less butting of heads,” says Tom Barrack. “Because people will learn that in this administration, there is only one person that matters, and that is Donald Trump.”
*This article appears in the June 12, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.
At the center of the extraordinary new documentary “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS,” débuting this Sunday, at 9 P.M., on National Geographic, a Syrian family tries to make sense of the disaster that has overtaken it. Two brothers, Radwan and Marwan Mohammed, along with their wives and small children, are holed up in a cement room somewhere outside of Aleppo, forced by Bashar al-Assad’s government troops and then by ISIS to flee the city. As the film chronicles with relentless power, Syria, outside the family’s miserable shelter, has fallen into chaos. The two brothers don’t appear to be political people; they are eager to raise and educate their children. As they recount their humiliations, they are not without grim humor: “This is the dining room,” Radwan says, pointing to an area of the floor where his kids eat some mushy white stuff in the midst of family belongings strewn all over the place.
Four hundred thousand Syrians have died since the civil war began, in 2011; millions have been displaced, and approximately a million refugees have landed in Europe, with disruptive effects that are now familiar. ISIS is an obsession for American citizens and politicians, but the Syrian conflict, which partially gave rise to ISIS, has only barely registered. This documentary is an attempt to place the conflict at the center of American consciousness, to show that the Syrian civil war and ISIS are inseparable. Families such as the Mohammeds have been ensnared in a cascading series of power grabs that have overwhelmed their hopes for a normal life.
Sebastian Junger, who co-produced the documentary with Nick Quested (the head of Goldcrest, a documentary-production company in London), narrates “Hell on Earth,” which he also wrote. Junger points out that foreign players (Iran, the Kurds, Turkey, Russia, America) have all pursued their own interests in Syria. “Once you get involved in a proxy fight, so many people have so huge a stake in the outcome that it’s almost impossible to stop,” he states. The trouble is, not only does foreign involvement keep the war going, the war itself comes back and bites its enablers. American politics has been materially altered by the fear of ISIS and of Syrian refugees. Our hopes for a normal life have been dislodged as well.
In 2010, Junger and the late Tim Hetherington made the classic documentary “Restrepo,” a portrait of an American combat unit in Afghanistan. After Hetherington was killed, in Libya, Junger refashioned the “Restrepo” outtakes into another strong movie, “Korengal,” in 2014. For those films, the two men did the camera work themselves. But Junger and Quested couldn’t get into Syria, so they adopted a different strategy. They drew on various media sources (network news, Human Rights Watch, ISIS propaganda), and they interviewed a wide range of experts (including the British writer Robin Yassin-Kassab and, in a lucid moment, Michael Flynn). The core of the movie, however, was shot by Middle Eastern news outfits, and by activists, witnesses, and citizen journalists. Most of this footage is devastatingly effective. The participatory camera has become commonplace, but you don’t often see one (usually a cell phone, I would guess) being carried into a tumultuous firefight or threading through the shocked, incoherent wake of a bomb blast. Or capturing shots of panic as a crowd falls under open fire. Or sharing eloquent views of rubble-strewn streets and grieving relatives. The movie dramatizes the destruction of a society from within that society. Watching “Hell on Earth” is not an easy experience; I can’t recall another documentary with so many corpses. It’s a grief-struck history of cruelty, haplessness, and irresponsibility—a moral history as well as a history of events.
Except for the family scenes, these are not home movies. On the contrary, the physical and emotional commitment behind the footage, which is palpable, is driven by professional skill or by serious ambition—or at least by the desire to bear witness. As many have said, we can be desensitized by seeing too many horrifying images; but each significant image in this movie hits hard. In many cases, the victims are the young—young men and women who join the anti-Assad resistance and, over and over again, children who just get caught in the violence. Both the best and the worst of the country’s young people have been pulled into an unending maelstrom.
Junger and Quested also tie together the historical fragments. In 2011, some teen-age boys in Daraa wrote anti-Assad sentiments on the wall of their school; they were arrested and tortured. One of the boys narrates the events, and we see a picture of him, battered, when he was released. (He seems to have since recovered physically.) It was the time of the Arab Spring, which began in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya as protests, initially peaceful, against corruption and oligarchy. In Syria, the Assad crackdown that followed produced larger and larger protests. A ragtag army of rebels—the Free Syrian Army—grew rapidly, fuelled by defecting Army regulars and foreign fighters. The Assad regime released imprisoned jihadis into the rebel force, in part to discredit it—one result of which was that the Obama regime was wary of arming the rebels, lest the arms fall into the wrong hands.
The Americans, in Junger and Quested’s estimation, made two colossal errors. The first was to completely disempower the Sunnis in Iraq after the American invasion, in 2003, with the result that many Iraqi Army officers, with nothing to gain in a Shia-dominated Iraq, joined ISIS. The second, of course, was Obama’s claim, in 2012, that the use of chemical weapons would serve as a red line, only to refuse to counterattack when Assad crossed that line in August, 2013. The Saudis were ready to join the U.S. in intervening against Assad. When the U.S. stood down, they stood down, and any chance of stopping Assad was likely lost for good.
The second half of the film chronicles the way ISIS rose out of the disorder in Iraq and the vacuum in Syria. This material is more familiar, in a dreadful way—the ineffably vicious recruiting films, the beheadings and other threats, the looting of ancient artifacts, with the intent of destroying the cultural heritage of a people and then the people themselves. As the movie makes very clear, ISIS’s spectacular brutality is not merely the expression of human degradation; it’s a very calculated effort to intimidate and control local people and to lure outsiders with the excitement of total domination.
At this point, the delusionary caliphate is no more. ISIS is surrounded in Mosul and Raqqa and may eventually be scattered and ended as an effective fighting force in the Middle East. But Assad, backed by the Iranians and Russia, will likely control more and more of his shattered country, and the human and political wreckage of the war will continue to roll across Europe. We don’t know whether Radwan and Marwan and their families ever made it out of the Middle East; they tried, at one point, to get to Greece, and were turned back. Other families have suffered worse (the Mohammeds at least escaped Aleppo alive) but their situation makes its tragic point: Their modest hopes and their claim on survival are what is left of the Syrian future.
Forbes already declared Diddy the richest artist in hip-hop this year, and now Puff Daddy has an even bigger title to add to his résumé: He’s also No. 1 on Forbes’ annual Celebrity 100 ranking of the world’s highest paid celebrities, the publication announced Monday.
Although Diddy was No. 22 on the list in 2016, he jumped up 21 spots thanks to the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour, his partnership with Ciroc vodka, and selling a portion of his Sean John clothing line. According to Forbes, his earnings from the past year total $130 million; last month, they put his net worth at $820 million.
After being at No. 34 last year, Beyoncé takes the No. 2 spot with earnings totaling $105 million thanks to the Formation World Tour and Lemonade. Writer J.K. Rowling follows at the No. 3 spot with $95 million, Drake’s at No. 4 with $94 million, and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo rounds out the top five with $93 million.
Running! is a Teen Vogue series on getting involved in the government. In this op-ed, Hannah Risheq explains why she is running for office in Virginia.
My name is Hannah Risheq and I am the first Muslim-Jewish politician in America. Yes, you heard that right. Muslim and Jewish. A lot of people are confused when I say I am Muslim and Jewish so let me explain. My dad is a Palestinian immigrant who is a Muslim, and my mom is a Jewish American. I was raised with both faiths and cultures. I love them both equally and I’ve learned to embrace my unique heritage.
I grew up in a pretty Baptist area in North Carolina and my family’s heritage was somewhat of a secret, especially after 9/11, when hate based fear grew rampant in my hometown. My cultural background means that I know firsthand the struggles of marginalized communities. My family has faced discrimination because of our Arab and Jewish heritage. I have walked down the extra security line at the airport just because my middle name is Khaled. My family has lived through the economic after effects of racially motivated business boycotts and hate crimes that so many marginalized populations have experienced for generations.
Eventually, we grew tired of countless aggressions and isolation in the south and moved to an increasingly diverse area of the country, the northern part of Virginia.
With the recent rise of nationalism, hate quickly spread to my adopted hometown. I don’t have the privilege of being silent and I won’t allow hate to spread through my community. With that, I knew that I have an obligation to help others who are still finding their voice.
I dedicated my career to advocacy and started to engage politically before I could even vote. I was a volunteer on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and felt the call to organize. So in college, I worked as an advocate and organizer for a variety of organizations dedicated to helping the disability community, disenfranchised youth, women with life-long chronic disease, and many more. I went on to grad school (twice) to study Public Health, Social Work and Social Policy while continuing to engage in advocacy movements.
As I developed interest in population health and wellbeing, healthcare rights became my passion. I became a dedicated Medicaid expansion advocate and researcher at Columbia University. With healthcare and many other human rights under attack throughout the 2016 presidential election, I knew I had to stay engaged and involved.
On election night, I was one of the lucky few to be invited to the stage at Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City. Seated about 100 feet behind the stage, I anticipated seeing the glass ceiling shattered in real time and watching a strong woman stand in the face of hate and bigotry. In the bleachers, I was among people of all colors, shapes, ages, and identities and watched as they slowly trickled out with looks of despair and confusion.
Unfortunately, hate won that night and my identity as a woman, Arab American, millennial, religious minority, and child of an immigrant were under attack. Most of all, as the child of a Muslim immigrant father and Jewish mother, I knew that my family’s safety became under greater threat. In the days following the election, I continuously found myself asking “what can I do to fight back?”
The answer: resist and effect change from within. We, young people, must actively fight back and we must be strategic about defending our future. With that mindset, I decided to stand up and run for office 2017 House of Delegates race for Virginia’s 67th District.
If the President of the United States refuses to hear our voices in the streets, we must make sure that they are louder than ever within our local communities and especially within state government. Virginia’s legislature must be more attuned to our population. Only 4% of Virginia legislators are representatives under the age of 35 and only 17% are women. Minorities are also underrepresented in the Commonwealth’s government, with only 17% of representatives identifying as a minority. When looking at Virginia’s elected officials, the diversity of Virginia is clearly not represented by our state officials. I am stepping up to change that.
In addition to my understanding and experiences of the struggles faced by minorities, I have also dealt with many of the inherent obstacles faced by females trying to achieve gender equity. I know what it’s like to sit at the table as a woman in STEM and be dismissed because of my feminine identity. As a female scientist, I cringe when I see the subliminal messaging that tells young girls woman work hard but men should lead, girls can’t do math, and it’s okay for a man to make more money than a woman. (In Virginia, our gender pay gap shows that white women only make 80 cents to every dollar a man makes.)
It’s because of these experiences that I’m going to fight harder and advocate more forcefully than anyone else. I’ve seen enough racial, gender, and cultural adversities for a lifetime; I’m done listening to a President and a society who believe my gender, religion, age, and cultural identity mean I am lesser. America is young and diverse. It’s time for millennials to be heard.
We need compromise in politics and if growing up in a household with a Muslim father and Jewish mother teaches you anything, it’s meeting in the middle. I am ready to work together for Virginia. If you live in Virginia, fight with the resistance against intolerance in all forms, and vote on June 13th. Or better yet, be a leader in the resistance and run for office yourself!
Related: Chicago College Student Bushra Amiwala Runs for Political Office