Experiences in D.C., at City Hall confirmed, fueled my life goals


by Amira Saleh, Class of 2016


I remember my first day working in the public sector. I was 19, and it was my first internship working for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, D.C. It was surreal.


As a young American-Muslim working in our nation’s capital, I felt confident there wasn’t an obstacle I could not face. More importantly, I knew I wanted to devote my life to public service, speaking for those unable to speak for themselves and the internship allowed me to begin to do just that. During that summer, I was able to work on immigration policies, follow the issues going on in the Middle East and attend briefings regarding Islamophobia.


When I interned the following summer and fall at the Milwaukee City Hall for Mayor Tom Barrett, I felt completely in place, as if I was exactly where I needed to be. I was working with constituents from all over the City of Milwaukee, answering hundreds of phone calls, writing letters, issuing proclamations, and speaking with constituents about various issues they faced in their neighborhoods. Work for the City of Milwaukee was the most rewarding because of the direct contact and relationships we made with individuals in the community and employees that service our City.


Working last summer once again in Washington, D.C. – this time for one of the top non-profits in the country, the Partnership for Public Service – was a dream. They chose only a select number of candidates from across the country. I felt fortunate to be selected in a pool full of University, international and Ivy League students, and came ready to show what I had to bring to the table. For that fellowship, I worked with employees from the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and the USDA to improve constituent/employee relationships with their employers. The goal was to improve the trust and likability of our federal employees and increase the confidence constituents have in our government employees. I loved every minute of it.


I can recall the exact moment that summer when I was given the best piece of advice for my career and for my life. A fellow employee said to me after a meeting, “Value your education, Amira, because you will use that to become the next leader of our generation.” This advice confirmed my motivation for pursuing the goals that would help me fulfill my dreams.


Today, I have proudly surpassed the goals I held for myself as I began my educational journey: to graduate with honors and to establish a career in D.C. Yes, I graduated magna cum laude, was involved in two honor societies, gave the commencement speech, and plan to work in Washington, D.C. after graduation.


It has been life-fulfilling to work in D.C., the City of Milwaukee, for a state senator, and with government agencies. This is why I hold such loyalty to the United States, for its amenities and opportunities to succeed beyond expectation.


Speaking up for injustice and leading our next generation are not only goals, but lifelong resolutions I feel are necessary to achieve true “happiness.” That happiness will come through a lot of heart, tons of courage, and one dream. As Nelson Mandela once said, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Amira Saleh graduated with the Class of 2016 in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history with a concentration in justice and peace studies, and was chosen as this year’s student commencement speaker. During her years at Stritch, Saleh explored her passion for government, politics and foreign policy not just through her participation in the Student Government Association but through internship and fellowship experiences that immersed her in the political realm. She admires the work and influence of political activist, writer and explorer Gertrude Bell, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, and President Theodore Roosevelt and plans to dedicate her future career and efforts to the ideals they represent. She specifically intends to create ways to help and serve women, particularly those from impoverished, war-torn areas. Following graduation, Saleh is heading to the East Coast where she will get married in fall. She plans to apply to law schools to further her education and move a step closer to her dreams. Saleh also volunteers, reads history books, works as an eyebrow threader, enjoys running by Lake Michigan, and cherishes time with her family.


Read on…


Milwaukee Alderman José Pérez, ’99, wrote a reflection for Stritch Magazine 20 years ago. He, too, shared details of a Washington D.C. internship experience and how it confirmed his own life goals. In 2012, a magazine profile about his rise in politics followed his journey from that internship experience to his present-day work as a member of the Milwaukee Common Council representing the very neighborhood where he grew up.