Mastering the art of storytelling to drive change.

The great American story: Once a refugee, now a nominee

MEDIUM, 09 / 13 / 2018


As a child, Safiya Wazir lived in Afghanistan under the threat of the Taliban, hiding from shootings and bombings.

Today, 27-year-old Safiya is the Democratic nominee for state rep. in New Hampshire’s 8th Ward.

Some Americans are just unstoppable.

Safiya’s family fled the Taliban when she was six for Uzbekistan. There, she was shamed by classmates — called a “terrorist” and “Taliban kid.”

With the help of Unicef, Safiya and her parents arrived as refugees in Concord, New Hampshire, in 2007.

“I was 16 and had zero English. I was helping my parents, going to Concord High School, studying English and working at Walmart and Goodwill. A friend brought me English dictionaries and I sat down every night and studied the vocabulary so I could communicate.”

Safiya became a U.S. Citizen in 2013, and three years later she achieved a degree in business from the community college in Concord.

In June, with two young daughters and a third child on the way, Safiya decided to run for the statehouse. Her mom volunteered to take care of the kids. She told her daughter: “You’ve got this. Go for it!

Dick Patten, a 66-year-old former councilman, was Safiya’s primary opponent. Patten criticized immigrants for taking welfare benefits away from other local residents. New Hampshire is 85% white.

Safiya rose above it: “I don’t take that personally. When you’re in politics, you just face it. I’ve lived here 11 years, my kids are in school, I love being in New Hampshire. This is my home, and I’m proud to say I am a refugee American.”

Then Patten said this:

“She’s got two kids with a third on the way. How are you going to be in the State House with two kids and one on the way?”

Safiya paid no mind. In her first trimester, she got up every day and knocked on doors. It was physically grueling. She talked to voters about her support for expanding Medicare, paid parental leave and more resources for early childhood education.

This past Tuesday, Safiya Wazir waxed Dick Patten in the primary: 66%-34%. Patten is now supporting the Republican nominee in the general.

Twenty-seven years old. Came to America as a refugee. Worked her way through school. Decided to run for office as a working — and newly expectant — mother. Now headed for her first seat in elective office.

“I want to be an example to everybody that, actually, you can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re not from here, and you’re not born here. I want to show them that, yes, you can do this.”

Sure can. I love a great American story.

Thank you, Safiya. Lead on.