Last Wednesday, Sept. 27,the Hope Democrats club hosted Dr. Abdul El-Sayed,the former Detroit HealthCommissioner, Michigan native and Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the 2018 election. Club President Julia Fulton (’19)and vice-President Irene Gerrish(’19) organized a student leader panel with Dr. El-Sayed prior to a town hall, a meeting open to the public’s concerns.
Fulton and Gerrish both had shared ambition when reminiscing on the evening. As Gerrish said, “His energy put a lot of hope in the hearts of the curious audience members who attended.” At the end of the event, Dr. El-Sayed madea point to sincerely thank the pair for the work that had gone into organizing the panel and town hall. Fulton said that, “His words inspired me to not take for granted the passion which is already in people, and encouraged me to continue my work here cultivating that passion for knowledge and understanding.”
The student panel gave severalHope College student leaders an opportunity to voice many of the concerns and thoughts of young people. Including himself in the “young people” demographic,Dr. El-Sayed made an effort to take time and carefully listen to the passionate voices at the tableand use “we” when referring to the group.
At only 32 years old and recently holding the position as the youngest Health Commissioner appointed to a major U.S. city, his attention to the students came from a place of common ground.
Throughout the evening,he made a point of purposely acknowledging and thanking the community members in attendance by making sure to open doors and shake hands with almost everyone in attendance. In fact, he emphasized that it was this very attention to people that caused him to switch from his background as a professor and epidemiologist to politics. He stated several times throughout his visit that his overall mission could be summarized by the idea of investing in the people ofMichigan for a “shared future.”
The primary issues he wishes to address while in office include creating jobs that won’t be off-shored or automated, fixing public and school infrastructures, creating accredited trade programs,drawing a bold separation of church and state and promoting transparency and communication within local governments. Dr. El-Sayed specifically highlighted a desire to shut down Enbridge Line 5,the rusted oil pipeline that runs through the Mackinac straight,as well as ensuring quality water by fixing broken water frameworks.
As Health Commissioner, Dr.El-Sayed created programs to help decrease infant mortality,provide free glasses for Detroit school children and stand up to corporations attempting to pump asthma-causing pollutants into the air. However,after the Flint water crisis, he realized that in order to truly make a better and healthierMichigan, he would need to run for governor. He has been quoted saying that the events inFlint are “the most outstanding demonstration of the failure of this system of government by spreadsheet.”
Dr. El-Sayed’s ambition as gubernatorial candidate also stems from his family and upbringing. As a son of immigrants from Egypt and the first Muslim candidate for governor in U.S. history, he explained that he believes his background has led him to be both “wholly uncommon and entirely American.”
He explained that his background has helped communicate more effectively with opposing view points. He spent much of his childhood summers traveling from Egypt to the lakes of metro-Detroit, Michigan.
He claimed that it was the exposure to this cultural difference at a young age that led him to hold such high value for his status as an American.
However, not all Michiganders have warmed up to the idea that these differences bring value to the table.
As a man in the back of the public town hall made evident when he asked the candidate if he had intentions of bringing Sharia law, a code of governing that is often linked to radical groups and ideologies, into effect within the state of Michigan.Dr. El-Sayed’s response was calm and patient, as he explained that his passion for this work comes from a deep love for the American Constitution which honors the strict line between church and state.
His professional background has been successful partially due to the diversity of skills he has cultivated through varying activities and jobs. After graduating from Bloomfield Hills Andover High School in 2003, he went on to pursue degrees in Biology and Political Science from theUniversity of Michigan. During his time as a Wolverine, he played lacrosse and met his wife,Sarah.
The pair are expecting their first daughter this year. He delivered the commencement speech alongside Bill Clinton and was awarded a full ride to the University of Michigan MedicalSchool.
After two years, he received the Rhodes Scholarship and finished his schooling at OxfordUniversity. He completed hisMD at Columbia University’sCollege of Physicians and Surgeons. He was a professor and researcher of epidemiology atColumbia prior to being appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan to Health Commissioner of Detroit.
Still over a year away from the Nov. 6, 2018 election date,the other primary gubernatorial candidates are actively seek-ing votes as well. Apart from Dr.El-Sayed, the Democratic side consists of Bill Cobbs, a businessmen; Shri Thanedar, a scientist and an entrepreneur; andGretchen Witmer, an attorney and former Minority Leader of the Michigan Senate.
Running for the Republican party spot is Patrick Colbeck, a former state Senator; Joseph Derose, an insurance agent; Jim Hines, a physician and president of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations;Evan Space, a small business entrepreneur; Mark McFarlin, a private investigator and Bill Schuette, the Attorney General of Michigan.
Colbeck is a strong candidate on the Republican side. In a re- cent interview, AnneMarie Dykstra, Colbeck’s communication director, explained that he too emphasizes a point for young people. Dykstra explained that Colbeck intends to support more cost effective choices of up- per education for students and ensure that their first amendment is protected in public colleges and universities. Requiring those institutions to “ensure the fullest degree of intellectual freedom and free expression no matter how disagreeable or offensive that speech may be.”
Colbeck’s “Principled Solutions for Michigan” consist of the government working for the people, respect of the U.S. constitution, government serving all people not just the elite, respect- ing the morality and freedom faith required for fiscal prosperity and saving tax increases for the last resort. His upcoming events consist of visits at Grand Valley State University, AAA Pregnancy Resource Center fundraiser banquet and an NFL protest.
After Dr. El-Sayed’s visit to Hope, he will travel around Michigan to attend more town halls and listen to the concerns of citizens. Tomorrow, Oct. 5, he will be traveling to his alma mater, the University of Michigan,to visit with more young people and hear their voices.
Dr. El-Sayed ended his speech at the Holland town hall with a message of democracy. He asked students and community members to get involved with the is- sues they brought to the forum.Whether it was joining his campaigns or another, he asked that the discussion lead them each to action within their communities and the entirety of the state.