By YOUSUF ALI, Staff Writer
On October 25th, the College Democrats at the University of Michigan-Dearborn hosted a town hall featuring Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. He is seeking the Michigan Democratic party’s nomination for the state’s gubernatorial election in 2018. The town hall started with College Democrats President Zeina Condon emceeing the event.
Condon started by giving a brief biography of El-Sayed including information about his education at the University of Michigan and Columbia and experience at the Detroit Health Department.
After Condon’s introduction, state representative Abdullah Hammoud (D) spoke about his personal experience with El-Sayed including how he met him at a mental health conference and was inspired by his address there.
In his address, El-Sayed described his family history and personal experience in Michigan. El-Sayed told the audience about how his father realized that he would have to educate himself if he wanted to do anything besides selling vegetables in Egypt. Eventually, his father decided to study engineering and had to choose between going to Detroit, Michigan and Bereiche, Germany for graduate school. His father chose Michigan because he believed America would treat him fairly regardless of his ethnic or religious background.
His father married another engineering professor, Jackie, a sixth-generation Michigander with ancestral roots going back to the American Revolution.
El-Sayed explained that being raised by engineering professors conditioned him to the language of science, but he also wanted to “use science to help people.” He spoke to the audience about his experiences working at Columbia University and how he came to the conclusion that people getting sick “has more to do with politics than biology.” As a result, El-Sayed concluded that he could make a bigger difference working in public health as opposed to a strict medical practitioner, which led him to becoming commissioner of Detroit’s Health Department.
El-Sayed told the story of a three year-old child who, despite having every possible socio-economic factor working against him, expressed confidence in his future and explained that he considered his job to involve justifying that confidence to every child in the city. He listed several of his accomplishments including developing a protocol for lead testing in public schools that has become the nationwide model.
He concluded his address by saying that the travelling he has done through campaigning led him to the conclusion that despite the vast differences of people across the state, “they (Michiganders) are talking about the same questions” about building a better future for their children.
When it came time for questions and answers, the audience participated eagerly. One audience member asked El-Sayed how he handles situations in which people are far more concerned about his ethnic or religious identity than his platform. In response, he said that he would not try to minimize his identity to please people, and he was more interested becoming “the best damn governor of Michigan” than being “the first Muslim governor.”
When asked about his opinion regarding his main opponent, former Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, El-Sayed complimented her for “having guts,” but stated that he is a better candidate, citing his experience leading the Detroit Health Department. More generally, El-Sayed said that he is a candidate who could do “a lot in a little bit of time” as opposed to doing little over a long period of time when questioned about the brevity of his career. After several more questions, El-Sayed concluded the event by telling the audience, “democracy takes work. It is not something that comes for free,” and encouraged the audience to become more civically engaged through campaigning.