Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has urged representatives of the Somali community in Columbus, Ohio, to help educate U.S. public officials about the situation in Somalia. The Senator made his comments after a meeting on July 3, 2007 with about 20 of his Somali-American constituents. About 40,000 Somalis live in Columbus, making the city home to the second largest group of Somalis in the United States. Many members of this Somali community are political refugees who came to the United States during the country’s civil war and many still have relatives living there.
Brown said he has always been interested in international affairs, and was a member of the International Relations Committee when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he added this is the first time that he has felt directly responsible for the welfare of an international group. In acquiring the position of Ohio Senator in 2006, he also acquired the concerns of this large segment of the Columbus population.
In an interview with the VOA Somali Service, Brown said, “I wanted to be introduced to the community in a more intimate way so that I could directly hear from people in the community about everything from their employment problems…[to] their views about the international situation.” He added that the meeting consisted of “people sitting around a table telling me their stories.”
Brown acknowledged that Somalia does not attract the attention of many members of the United States government because the nation is involved in so many international issues. According to Brown, the task of drawing focus to Somali issues falls upon him and upon the other senators and representatives who come from areas with large Somali populations.
Brown told VOA, he advised his Somali constituents that they should contact their senators and representatives and to get them involved. “Educate us,” Brown said. “Help us learn how to help that situation.”