Student, alum nationally honored

Josh Scal, Staff writer

Senior Sami Rahamim and 2009 Park graduate Abby Schanfield attended State of the Union address in Washington, D.C.


According to Politico, a national political news source, 33 million Americans tuned in to watch President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this January. Senior Sami Rahamim and graduate Abby Schanfield experienced it in person.

Rahamim, whose father Reuven was killed in the Accent Signage shooting Sept. 27, was invited by Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. He spoke with the president before his speech, telling his father’s story and pushing for increased gun violence prevention.

“We’re counting on (Obama) to get something done so that something like this doesn’t happen to more people,” Rahamim said.

Abby Schanfield, a 2009 Park graduate, attended the event upon an invitation from first lady Michelle Obama.

As a beneficiary of the President’s health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, Schanfield attended as an advocate for people with chronic health conditions, who often were rejected by insurance carriers before the bill.

“It was an incredible honor (to attend),” Schanfield said. “It means your representative values your story and you as a person.”

Congressman Ellison, whose district includes St. Louis Park, said he brought Rahamim to the State of the Union to offer personal tragedy as an incentive to pass increased safety measures.

“(Rahamim) is one of the most articulate spokespeople for gun safety,” Ellison said.

“He has the facts, he has the personal

tory, and he’s able to tell it and channel his grief into positive action,” Ellison said. Rahamim recounted the experience as incredibly surreal, and felt honored to even be considered for an invitation. “It’s impossible to describe the feeling of being in a room with the most impor- tant people in the United States,” Rahamim said.

Schanfield, who has been telling her own personal story, said the highlight of her weekend was meeting other attendees at the president’s address.

“Each one of these people represent something American,” she said. “They represent our country, what is possible for us to do, and what needs to change.” Schanfield said she enjoyed the actual address, seeing it as a challenge to Congress to pass real legislation. “(Obama) did a good job of framing (his speech) in a way that made it important for both sides of the aisle to listen and become active,” she said.

Ellison said he also encourages young people like Rahamim to push their beliefs by doing anything from writing school essays on certain issues to staffing for legislators.

“I hope people will follow his example and get involved because it’s the only way to change things,” Ellison said.