A day before he departs to Washington to serve his first term in the House, Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, a Democrat, told hundreds of his supporters, who crammed in a St. Anthony room, that he was “leaving no one behind.”
“You’re all coming with me,” he said to the crowd, which burst into a loud cheer.
Ellison’s peace and justice mantra was interpreted in three languages (Spanish, Hmong and Somali,) before a pastor, a rabbi and an imam sealed him with collective prayers, in an usual and elaborate display of diversity among his supporters.
As he bowed his head down for each prayer, Ellison, his wife Kim beside him, was standing underneath a banner that read “Everybody matters, Everybody counts.”
As a gift from the community, Ellison recived a desk globe, said to be symbolizing the world of backgrounds and faiths that he has to represent in Washington. Currently, he is the most scrutinized Congressman in the country, mostly due to his Muslim faith, which set off a chain of reactions that jittered the nation.
The pastor, whose church choir sang “God is an awesome God,” described Ellison as “an old pal,” and energized the crowd by saying that Minnesota is leading the nation in testing the waters. The pastor referenced Ellison’s Muslim faith, which makes him the first Muslim Congressman in the nation, and the first black from the state.
Ellison, who mostly listened, succinctly thanked his supporters and said that he’s “ready to get to work in Washington,” and “to make a difference in the lives of the families from all of the communities.”
He highlighted his agenda, which includes an ambitious universal healthcare, a renewable energy and the right to marry, “which shouldn’t be denied based on who you love.”
He also reiterated his staunch opposition to the war in Iraq, “which is based on lies.”
“American people are thirsting for peace,” he said. “Can our leaders concede to that?”
Ellison introduced two of his local staffers, who pledged that they will keep their doors wide open for constituencies.
Ellison is heading to Washington today, and is expected to take the oath of office next day on a copy of the Quran that belonged to president Thomas Jefferson. Rep. Virgil Goode, a Republican from Jefferson’s home state, Virginia, eariler blasted Ellison’s plan to use the Quran, claiming that it is aberration from American values