Obama Team Hires Selam Mulugeta

Selam Mulugeta (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New York (TADIAS) – The presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama has hired Selam Mulugeta, an Ethiopian American, who formerly served as a Congressional Staffer and Special Assistant to Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), founder and Chair of the Congressional Ethiopia and Ethiopian American Caucus.

“I will be a Field Organizer in the Northern Virginia region,” Selam told Tadias Magazine. She formally joined the Obama campaign earlier this month.

“This means that I would be doing community organizing at the grassroots level to increase the number of registered voters, and most importantly, to increase voter turn-out in November.”

Members of the Democratic support group Ethiopians for Obama (E4O), which is active in Virgina, often say that the November election may be decided by a few thousand votes, and the robust Ethiopian American presence there may end up being a deciding factor.

Selam Mulugeta agrees. “In states like Virginia, Ethiopians are in a unique position to swing the vote,” Mulugeta said. “If all of us who are eligible to vote do so, then we could potentially win the state.”

Selam added: “The responsibility is tremendous, but doable. We can accomplish this by investing more time in the campaign and fully extending the reach of our influence. I am a member of the steering committee for E40. I have always supported the organization, even from its days as a loose discussion group formed in someone’s living room. I am so proud of the work that has already been done, and even while I was on the Hill I was quite adamant about engaging its leaders. My role in E4O will be to empower Ethiopians to realize that they can support the Obama campaign by volunteering.”

Selam Mulugeta with Capitol Hill Backdrop

Asked about the high level of excitement within the African immigrant community particularly about the prospect of electing the first African American President, Mulugeta says the candidate’s background is attractive to Africans in general.

“African immigrants can identify with Barack Obama because he himself is a second generation African American. More than that, he identifies with his own African heritage in a way that we all can be proud of”, she said. “He was able to achieve a level of success that our parents or first generations dream of for their children.”

She pointed out that Obama, because of his African background, will be in a strong position to advocate for better governance in the African continent.

“We also believe that his shared appreciation for Africa makes him the ideal President” she said. “He will not be afraid to engage and confront the challenges of achieving political stability and economic independence throughout the African continent, while preserving the dignity of its people. It is all the more reason that Diaspora Africans in this country should remain visibly involved in the campaign.”

The gregarious and young former Congressional staffer landed her gig on Capitol Hill fresh out of college and says she was attracted to the job by her former boss’s dedication to advocate on behalf of his Ethiopian American constituents in San Jose, California.

Selam Mulugeta Campaigning on behalf of Congressman Michael M.
Honda for Keith Ellison for Congress. September 2006.

“I interned for Congressman Honda during the summer after college graduation. I had the opportunity to work on building the Caucus because of the open-mindedness and dedication of the Congressman to the Ethiopians in his District. There was a clear need to create a voice for Ethiopian Americans in the legislative process, and I was hired to exercise that potential. The Congressman wanted to create an institution that could maximize that potential, so there was a clear need for someone to develop this institution on a full time basis”, she said.

“The Caucus is an organization of Member of Congress who all believe that the Ethiopian American agenda is a priority, or that Ethiopia is a strategic ally in Africa. Members of this Caucus usually have a strong relationship with the Ethiopian community in their districts, or believe that Ethiopia can play a leading role in achieving peace and economic stability on the continent.”

Asked to name what she considers as the significant achievement of the Caucus, Selam said: “The most significant achievements are passing language in Appropriations Bills on Ethiopia, and organizing a huge effort to recognize the Ethiopian Millennium. On Appropriation, Congressman Honda was able to pass language to encourage the Administration to fund development programs in Ethiopia that are led by Ethiopian Americans.”

“Mr. Honda advocates for the support of Ethiopian American NGOs because he believes that they should play a role in guiding US development policy toward Ethiopia,” she noted.

“On the Millennium, the Caucus was able to seize the moment by organizing a festival on the Hill and passing legislation that would draw attention to the development concerns of Ethiopia”, Selam said. “The Caucus hosted a festival with live cultural performances, art exhibit, and food from the best Ethiopian restaurants in Washington DC.”

The event, attended by Tadias Magazine, had generated a crowd of over 500 people among whom were Members of Congress, USAID and State Department staff, NGO directors, grassroots leaders, and diplomats. “It was a joyous occasion that drew a lot of attention, so the Caucus was able to promote its development priorities most effectively,” Selam said. “Rep. Honda introduced a Resolution honoring the Millennium that passed a few months later. This was significant because it was truly the work of several Ethiopian American organizations – the Caucus made a concerted effort to seek the input of community leaders across the country, and it was the first project that proved how strong the community can be when leaders cooperate with one another.”

And her personal role in this achievement?

“I was the lead staff on the Appropriations related to Ethiopia in my office,” she said. “I also proposed and implemented the planning for the Millennium event on the Hill. And with the guidance and mentoring of Ted Dagne (CRS, Africa Policy Director), I helped to draft the Resolution. I thought that it would be much more meaningful to have the endorsement of several community organizations before seeking co-sponsorship.”

Equipped with Capitol Hill experience and youthful zeal, Selam Mulugeta has embarked onto her next challenge. “Most Ethiopians are registered to vote, but their responsibility to electing the new President does not end there,” she said. “They will have to join the movement by registering their family members, their children, their friends at church or mosque. Our strength is in volunteering.”

Selam has joined the ranks of thousands of like-minded and optimistic young professionals who have answered Senator Barack Obama’s call for change.

Ethiopian Americans May Swing the Vote in Virginia (TADIAS)
African Immigrants Among Obama’s Enthusiastic Backers (The Washington Post)

16 Responses to “Obama Team Hires Selam Mulugeta”

  1. 1 Teklu Jul 31st, 2008 at 7:50 am

    She will make a difference. Go girl.

  2. 2 TG Jul 31st, 2008 at 8:10 am

    It is mind blowing when you think of the fact that Virginia could decide the election and in Virginia the election could be decided by Ethiopian-Americans. I hope every Ethiopian-American eligible to vote will vote this November.

  3. 3 Betty Negusse Jul 31st, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Wonderful news!

  4. 4 mesfin Jul 31st, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I believe every Ethiopian American should vote for Obama come November and we should demand that Obama pledge to work to end a 17 year long tyranny in our country. The likes of Selam Mulugeta and other political gurus in the US have a lot to do in that regard.


  5. 5 Nolawi Aug 2nd, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    This is great – this is great – i know her

  6. 6 Alem Aug 3rd, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    You GO GIRL I am proud of you;;;;;;;;;;

  7. 7 Seasoned Vet Aug 21st, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Reassuring to see the Democrats still think they’ll win an election by inspiring fickle college kids and recent grads. Immigrants should wake up and realize that the Democratic Party is simply pimping y’all out (and taking way too big a cut of your proceeds).

    Do the right thing, on Nov. 4th, have some kitfo and whiskey and stay home.

  8. 8 dereje Aug 26th, 2008 at 8:28 am

    I would like to keep in touch.

  9. 9 Seasoned Vet Aug 26th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    I bet you’d like to ‘keep in touch’

  10. 10 Spectator Sep 1st, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Selam is doing some very important work in the VA and DC metropolitan area, all able voters should take this work seriously and act on it. We have to take part in this very important stage in history.

    Others have taken steps to help Selam and the Obama Campaign by using their creative means. Check out an original song created by the KafaBeanz (http://www.myspace.com/kafabeanz ) called IRock.

    Listen to the song:

    OBAMA 08!!!!!!!

  11. 11 samson Sep 9th, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Your continuous effort to encourage those who have the opportuinity to vote is truly appreciated. It is mandatory that those of us who are citizens of the U.S and eligible to vote use the advantage to have our voices heard. Just like the rest, we are part of the government; the productive society; law abiding citizens; and tax payers. We should also seek a government reform enacted in Washington. Otherwise, we will some of the few targated groups falling under what politicians call it “recession” or even “depression”. For those of us who are not naturalized citizens of the U.S., we can still contribute by participating in local mettings, and encouraging others to vote, placing neighborhood signs and other similar peaceful movements.

    No matter Which party we are belong to or what our beliefs are, we shall, and are encouraged to make a difference in the future .

    Selam, I also encourage you to use some of those ethiopian weekend radio programs and mostly viewed ethiopian web-sites to promote your party.

    good luck

  12. 12 TG2 Oct 7th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Hey God bless you and the whole nation. Good Job..> You did what I want to do. Now I dont regeret Becase my sister selam did it.. Good Job again.

  13. 13 lulu Oct 10th, 2008 at 10:34 am

    It is good to hear such a great news

  14. 14 sefinew Birhan Apr 3rd, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Selam Mulugeta:

    Thank you I want to join with you. Call me-239 692 2884. Thank you

  1. 1 Obama Reaches Out to Ethiopian American Voters at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Aug 6th, 2008 at 4:50 pm
  2. 2 Ethiopian Americans May Swing the Vote in Virginia at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Aug 9th, 2008 at 2:46 am
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