Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., made history last year when he was sworn in as the first Muslim congressman. On Sunday, he urged local Muslims to make history of their own.

“Since I’ve been in Congress, I’ve learned a few lessons. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the Muslim community in America really sees itself as a community that has a lot to offer,” Ellison said. Ellison spoke to a couple hundred people during a regional conference at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati that dealt with family and community issues. His hour-long speech, “Civic Responsibility: Muslim-American Engagement in the Political Process,” combined humor, frustration, empowerment and politics.

“You climbed up the ladder. Are you going to pull it up after you?” Ellison asked those in the crowd who have reached a level of success.

“No,” he answered for them. “We have to get busy on these problems.”

Ellison said things haven’t been easy for Muslims in the post-9/11 world, but he told the crowd they have two choices: They can “get bitter or get better.”

“Getting better,” he said, is part of an effort to become active and learn what’s going on around them.

“I think the beauty is we can change it through the ballot box,” he said, advising people to run for office if they want to make a difference. (MORE)


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