Posted by Joan Hanna on August 08, 2016 in Blog
“My earliest memories of civic engagement are volunteering for my oldest sister, Samar, who actually worked with AAI in Michigan. Samar, my other sister, Mariam, and I would go to naturalization ceremonies and register people to vote. Those experiences were very powerful as a teenager. And it must have had an impact on me given the direction in which my career has progressed and the things I’ve worked on, because I believe our vote is such an important piece of our voice in this country,” Fayrouz Saad recalled. Saad is a Dearborn native, a graduate of the University of Michigan and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and has worked in every level of government before the age of 34. Now, she’s running for Congress.
Saad announced her candidacy for Michigan’s 11th District in July. Congressional campaigns are intense and exhausting, but her parents, Araf and Aida, passed on an important trait to Saad: diligence. Working hard has been a long-standing family characteristic. Saad’s parents immigrated from Lebanon over 40 years ago, and once they settled in Dearborn, her father opened a wholesale meat packing business in Detroit’s east side. “Not only did I see the value of hard work through my parent’s actions, but I came to understand the opportunities that this country gives to us and why it’s important to protect that. It’s not unique to just my family. People who came here, or are here, want to achieve the American Dream. They want to leverage the opportunities that this country has to offer to achieve that and raise their kids with those values which were instilled in them. Because I watched them achieve their goals and succeed, I do feel like it’s my obligation to protect those opportunities and help others achieve that as well.”
For the better half of her life, Saad has done just that. Locally, Saad worked as the District Field Organizer for the John Kerry Campaign and championed community civic engagement strategies at the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC). On the state level, she served as the Communications Advisor for Michigan’s State Senate and as the District Director and Legislative Assistant for State Representative Gino Polidori. In late 2009, Saad was recognized for her work as a community organizer and was appointed to the Department of Homeland Security, first as a Special Assistant for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and then as an Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs working on national issues affecting local communities. Saad used what she learned working in government and applied it to the private sector as well. She worked hard to build and maintain outreach programs and advise on national security, international affairs and local strategies for organizations as Vice President of both Resolute Consulting LLC and Cambridge Global Advisors.
Most recently, she returned home to work as the first Director of Immigrant and International Affairs under Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “It was so great to have that direct connection and communication with folks that we were trying to serve. When you’re working on that local of a level, you get to see the direct impact of your work pretty immediately.” Saad experienced difficulties in her job too, but utilized her past professional experiences as a compass. “When I was working in this position, it was during a time when immigration, immigrant affairs, refugee resettlement were some of the hottest political topics in the country. We were doing it in a city in which the majority of the population is African American, and we did it with very little pushback or political opposition. We were successful because we took the time to develop a community approach to educate folks. What we were really doing was economic development -- we were looking at small business development, entrepreneurship, home ownership, and trying to tackle basic challenges people faced trying to achieve these things.”
Despite the economic hardships many cities are facing, Saad is particularly hopeful for Detroit’s future. “I see that there is this thriving, robust immigrant community in Detroit and the surrounding region that could be instrumental to Detroit's revitalization process and that’s part of why I’m running -- I want to be apart of that process and help it grow. But it’s going to take the right leadership. I believe I understand the region and understand what’s happening in people’s homes, in their neighborhoods, in their communities, in the region and what it means for the larger success of southeast Michigan and Michigan as a whole. I want to fight for change with them and for them.”