The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 25, 2013

Daughters spend summer delving into democracy

From ditch hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court


"Drew Campbell and Vance Stuehrenberg," said Sumia, recalling the commissioners and proving the girls were paying attention even at the lower levels of government.

As executive director of the African Family Education Center in Mankato, Sabrie has been working for years to educate new immigrants about American government. And he regularly intervenes on behalf of immigrants with political leaders from Mankato City Council members to county commissioners to legislators to the Minnesota congressional delegation.

"So it occurred to me, why don't I educate my children, start with my household?" said Sabrie, a native of Somalia.

Plus, since his work so often involves government, it was important to him that his children get a hint of what he does for a living. They got their first trip to the nation's capital in 2012 when Sabrie was one of the recipients of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, but the visit was so brief that he decided they needed to return.

With his pregnant wife staying home and his son attending a basketball camp, Sabrie loaded the five daughters — including recent East High School graduate Amran — in their mini-van and headed east. While it was a potentially daunting road trip, he takes government seriously and wants to pass on that reverence for democracy to his family.

When Sabrie left Somalia in 1982, the east-African nation had a functioning government but it was far from democratic. When he returned in 1992, working as an interpreter and cultural adviser for the U.S. Department of Defense in a period made famous by the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," the country had descended into a civil war and was without a functioning central government of any sort.

"Even when we had a government, it was a different kind of government — a military dictatorship ... rather than a government of the people," he said.

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