Rep. Ilhan Omar’s visit sparks concern


Grace Farley

Rep. Ilhan Omar shares her story to 30-40 Park students in C350 April 23. Her visit was prompted by a personal message requesting her to speak at the high school by a student.

Grace Farley and Dani Orloff

While sophomore Claire Diamond-Wheeler said she is proud of her fellow classmate Amal, who initiated the Rep. Ilhan Omar visit to Park by sending Omar a letter, she said she had mixed feelings when she heard Rep. Omar would be speaking at Park.

“I’m very proud of Ilhan Omar becoming the first Muslim woman in the House. I think that’s like very important,” Diamond-Wheeler said. “I really want to be able to support her, but due to the comments she’s made about my people, about the Jewish people, it’s just not something that I can ignore.”

According to Principal Scott Meyers, District 5A Representative Ilhan Omar visited Park April 23 in C350 to speak to students in English 10 and the East African group after a student reached out to her.

Meyers said the administration utilized that purpose to determine the students that were able to attend the meeting.

“It wasn’t open to the whole school,” Meyers said. “We had some of our English language learners reach out to their teacher to say why they might want to meet with Representative Omar and so that’s how the final group was established.”

Senior Aisha Abdi said it was amazing to simply hear from one of her biggest role models in her life at the moment.

“Once I heard her speaking about her life story that inspired me that I could actually become her or do something in the field that she is doing,” Abdi said. “Just itself for her to come to speak to the people that told her to come was just amazing for me.”  

Diamond-Wheeler said she wishes everyone’s opinions and beliefs are taken into account before hosting speakers at the high school.   

“Because it wasn’t publicized like at all, like no one really knew about it, I didn’t get a good feeling from that. Due to this secrecy and everyone knowing about her anti-Semitic comments and the fact that St. Louis Park high school has a very high Jewish population, that just didn’t sit right with me,” Diamond-Wheeler said. “It seemed like there was something going on there that wasn’t, that shouldn’t have been.”

In an attempt to respect the requests and communication guidelines of the speaker, Meyers said students felt the meeting was kept secretive.

“That was not our intent at all. It was not kept quiet. So, that’s where I think there was some confusion amongst our students,” Meyers said. “The whole purpose of the visit was to meet the request of a student, which then led to a couple different student groups interpreting that their letters had been received or responded to.”

As sophomore Roselyne Iwundu sat in a circle amongst her peers in C350 to hear Rep. Omar’s story, she said that her message resonated with her and motivated her to pursue her future goals.

“I felt like the message that she sent to us was powerful and the way she grew up is the same way that we grew up too and it is just making it seem like we can all do something great like her,” Iwundu said.

Meyers said while he understands students’ frustrations regarding the Rep. Omar’s visit to Park, the purpose of the meeting was not to address political viewpoints.

“I can respect some of the concerns that people had regarding inviting somebody who is viewed as anti-Semitic. I would just say as a principal of this high school it’s important to me that that would never be the focus of a meeting,” Meyers said. “The purpose of the meeting was for students at our school who have had common lived experiences to hear from somebody they see who looks like them who has had similar experiences and is in a leadership position in our nation and to share that commonality.”

Diamond-Wheeler said in response to her beliefs, she has received negative attention on social media.

“Some people are opposing me, calling me racist, and other people, like white supremacists, are supporting me but for the wrong reasons,” Diamond Wheeler said. “I just want to clarify that I’m very proud of the club and the people that were able to get Ilhan Omar here. It is just simply politics, so it’s nothing personal at all. I don’t want to be seen as a racist person because I stand up for what I believe is right.”