How Cam Newton has influenced my run for public office at age 28

How Cam Newton has influenced my run for public office at age 28
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Dear Cam,

I’ve never written an open letter to anyone in my life, but after the season you just had with the Panthers, I knew that this message was needed. My name is Lula Dualeh, I’m 28 years old and I’m running for County Commission for Mecklenburg County District 2.

To be honest, I’m not a huge football fan. Yes, I understand the game due to many years of sitting through my brother’s and father’s screams and sometimes cries, season after season. However, I never felt the game spoke to me. You changed that for me.

I grew up in Charlotte, less than six minutes away from Bank of America Stadium. So I have fond memories with my family opening day in the summer of 1996. I’ll never forget how proud my father was of our Queen City to finally have a football team of our own. It wasn’t until this football season that I finally shared the same pride he felt that day. That is because of you.

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When I saw you dab in the end zone against the Seattle Seahawks, I knew this season would be different. There was a certain level of fearlessness and fun captured in that moment that moved me beyond measure. During your press conference, explaining your celebratory dance, you walked straight into the heart of millennials everywhere who craved boldness from a very public figure.

Much like you, I’m the underdog this political season. Not only am I the youngest candidate in my race, but if elected, I will be the youngest elected official to serve on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commission.

I’m also Muslim and first-generation Somali-American, and I don’t look like your typical politician. To some I represent the “other.” However, to many I represent necessary change, hope and excitement.

Charlotte is growing at a rapid rate, which excites me because that means diversity. If we dare to call Charlotte a global city, our leadership should mirror that claim. Fortunately, by belonging to so many different groups, I bring many communities with me throughout this process. The promise of democracy is what makes this nation great.

However, in order to deliver on this promise, we must welcome all walks of life in order to have some skin in the game. One of my personal mottos is that representation matters. I take great pride and responsibility in representing groups that sometimes are marginalized when discussing politics.

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I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to hear commentators constantly undermine your small victories until I had to go through it myself as a candidate. Event after event, I brush shoulders with other candidates and elected officials who view my unorthodox campaign as an impossible win. Win after win, Cam, they doubted you. Even after you made it to the Super Bowl, many were astonished that you made it that far. You defied the odds and serve as a leader and a beacon of hope for an entire city and state.

Through your leadership, you’ve shown us that there is no age requirement for greatness. I’ve learned that there are two types of leaders, those who lead by action and those who lead by title. We are leaders by action. I’ve served my community as an organizer by educating and providing services to many underserved neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. It gave me an opportunity to learn the issues plaguing our communities and create solutions with the communities input.

I’ve also led my community as 3rd Vice Chair with the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party by showing Millennials how they can take part in participating in their own best interests. Although many might not care about politics, politics always cares about them. By having a fresh voice and ideas, in me, many now feel included in a sometimes close-knit process, much like you did for me this season with football.

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Even with the many obstacles in my path to serving my district, I am still pounding. Some of the best people I know from this city live in my district. My neighbors are seniors, millennials, children, students, artists and much more. They deserve a champion who will not only work to place resources in communities that are in most need but also someone who will fight every day to help empower them to use their voice to uplift those around them. Keep pounding is not a mere phrase, but a way of life. Through any hardship, we must keep pounding. I will keep pounding for the hope of my district for better and brighter days.

Thank you for your hard work and inspiration.

– Lula

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