First Somali student president at University of Minnesota tackles food, health, housing

On a Sunday in October, shortly before the 2008 presidential election, a young Abdulaziz Mohamed sat on a couch with his father watching Meet the Press. On the program, Colin Powell, the retired general who had served as Secretary of State under George W. Bush, announced his endorsement of Barack Obama.

In his interview with Tom Brokaw, Powell cited growing Islamophobia within the Republican party as part of the reason for his endorsement. It had become acceptable, he noted, to describe Obama—incorrectly—as a Muslim, in order to discredit his candidacy.

“Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian,” Powell said. “But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim American kid believing that he or she could be president?”

On the couch in their Woodbury apartment, Abdulaziz turned to his father. He had just turned eight.