By: Arsalan Barmand, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Washington, DC - As one of just a handful of Iranian-American staffers on Capitol Hill, Morad Elmi's career is an example of the remarkable steps our community's young generation has taken in recent years to advance in new fields and find innovative routes to success. Recently named a "Hill Staffer to Watch in 2010," Morad's success came after bypassing more traditional professions.
After graduating from Miami University of Ohio with a political science and pre-medical double major, Morad enrolled at Wright State University in pursuit of a Master's in Human Anatomy. Having spent much of his life working in labs and shadowing doctors, Morad was destined - like his father - for a life in medicine.
However, Morad took the advice of his sister, who works in government affairs, to spend the summer between his first and second years of graduate school working in a different field - politics. He applied to Congressional offices and think tanks in Washington and eventually landed a position in Rep. Marcy Kaptur's (D-OH) office. "I loved my internship, I learned a lot about the Hill and government in general," Morad told NIAC.
Kaptur's staff was so impressed with his performance that at the end of his tenure they offered him a job as a Legislative Correspondent. Morad knew that accepting the job would mean the end of his studies in medicine, a move that had the potential to cause a great disturbance at home in Dayton, Ohio.
Iranian parents are well-known for strongly encouraging their children to pursue careers in law, medicine, and engineering. Luckily for Morad, however, his parents were very supportive of his alternative career choice.
"When the opportunity presented itself, I decided to pursue the path that interested me most," Morad said. With the backing of his parents, he abandoned his studies in medicine and accepted the job.
Three years later, he is still with Congresswoman Kaptur's office, serving as a Legislative Assistant covering foreign affairs, immigration, telecommunications, the judiciary, civil rights, campaign finance reform, labor and trade issues (among others).
"The opportunities I've been given on the Hill have been phenomenal. I see the way government works on a daily basis, and feel a level of involvement I never thought I'd have. I'm constantly learning new things - Congress is an ever-evolving institution and you have to learn to move with it."
Deeply committed to the people of Ohio, Morad credits his upbringing in the tight-knit Iranian-American community of Dayton as the source of his passion for supporting local communities.
"Everyone is an Amu or Khaleh, Uncle or Aunt," said Morad. "There are about 100-150 of us, and all the kids grew up together."
Since coming to DC, Morad has worked hard and earned some significant accolades.
Earlier this year, Morad was named by Foreign Policy's Magazine's blog, The Cable, as a "Hill Staffer to Watch" after he was one of just 26 Hill staffers selected for the Spring Congressional Fellowship Program at the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA).
"I frequently read The Cable and was surprised to see my name on the list," he said.
The PSA Fellowship, created five years ago by senior Republicans and Democrats, seeks consensus to address the country's most pressing foreign policy and national security issues.
"It was exciting to be named a PSA fellow," Morad said enthusiastically. "It offered a great opportunity to work directly with staffers from across the aisle on such nuanced issues like national security and foreign affairs."
Morad looks forward to continuing his work in government well into the future, and plans to attend graduate school at some point. However, he hopes more Iranian Americans will join him in becoming active in government and politics.
"I'd like to see more Iranian Americans getting involved with policy in Washington," Morad said. "Groups like NIAC are helping to get the community more involved, and I hope that engagement will spark a greater interest within the community about the issues that affect us all."
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