Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was sworn in this past Friday at her alma mater, Southwestern High School, in Detroit.
About 200 people came to watch and celebrate this first Muslim, and the first Muslim woman, to grace Lansingâ€™s Capitol Building.
Rep. Tlaib thanked the many people who came, with very generous, sincere and honest praise, for all of those who helped her win her seat, from her large family to Rep. Steve Tobocman, to the many volunteers who helped her make her way to her high office.
Speaking of her campaign and knocking on doors, she said, â€œmeeting your families and listening to your concerns reminded me why I am doing this.â€
Southwestern High School is in a depressed area of Detroit, it should be said. The school is surrounded by litter, and the buildings in the neighborhood look neglected. Metal detectors bar its doors. But inside it has the same bustle and warmth and organization you would expect from any high school.
Indeed this high school is a rough metaphor for Rep. Tlaibâ€™s success. In her own words, â€œI am the first in my family to attend college, and law school.â€ Her family are Palestinians who immigrated to the United States. She is the eldest of 14 siblings.
Yet she has risen to one of the most powerful offices in the state of Michigan, and assuming she serves out three terms (the state limit) she is certainly young enough to seek office again, whether inside the state of Michigan or at the federal level.
Rep. Tlaib extended her gratitude to many, including her mother, her husband, her brothers and sisters, but especially to Rep. Steve Tobocman, for whom she worked and whose seat she has now taken, at his insistence. Her voice broke as she expressed her gratitude, â€œThank you for believing in me,â€ she said, in explaining that despite his insistence that she run for office, she had argued vehemently against it.
Something I see about her from meeting her on occasion at community events over the past four years, is that she did not argue against this post insincerely, to mask her yearning for that office.
She is not the kind of person whose very presence exudes ambition. In fact, Rep. Tlaib has a humble presence, she is not the kind of person whose personality takes over a room as she enters. She honestly seems like someone who would rather be at the back of the room than in the front.
Yet when she took to the podium at Southwestern High School to thank those who had helped her succeed, and to describe the journey that led her to where she is, she seemed completely at ease, someone with the skill to reach out to an audience and communicate to them smoothly and with complete comfort, and without any of the polished speaking mannerisms sometimes meant to mask dishonesty.
Rep. Tlaib is a person who will sincerely seek to represent the people of her district and her family and what she believes in. She is the kind of person that other people like to believe in.