My State of the Union Guest: Ahmed Shedeed

The true strength of America comes not from our abundant natural resources, the size of our economy, or even our military might.

The true strength of America comes from the idea that out of many, we are one. That no matter an individual’s background, identity, race, religion, creed, color, or party, we are united by the fact that we are all Americans. Together we are bound in common purpose to build a nation that is more fair, just, generous, and free than the country we inherited from those who came before us.

Our unity as Americans, in spite of what divides us, is what makes America exceptional in the history of nations.

Unfortunately, as examples of fear and intolerance have increasingly dominated headlines and become alarmingly more frequent in our national political discourse, we risk losing sight of the rich diversity that makes our country great.

I just returned from a five day trip to the Middle East with several Senate colleagues, where we met with leaders and regional allies to discuss strategies to fight terrorism and strengthen America’s national security. The fear and intolerance we’re now seeing in America’s political conversation was a frequently discussed topic. It’s clear that these dark moments in our national dialogue are counter-productive to achieving our goals of defeating terror, fighting extremist recruitment, and improving our standing in the world.

These recent displays of religious intolerance and xenophobia are not only compromising our national security, they’re blind to our history and are an affront to the values that truly define the American spirit.

Because I believe in the boundless capacity of our country to rise above intolerance, fear and discrimination, and to celebrate the pluralism that makes us strong, I’ve invited New Jersey resident Ahmed Shedeed to be my guest at President Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday. Mr. Shedeed is the President of the Islamic Center of Jersey City and a leader at the Al-Tahweed Islamic Center, one of the largest and oldest mosques in New Jersey.

Throughout his life Mr. Shedeed has spoken out for religious tolerance and mutual understanding. His life and his work are examples of how the diversity of America makes us all better.

Mr. Shedeed was born and raised in Shebeen Elkome, Elmounofia Egypt. He graduated from the Agriculture School in Elmounofia University. After his service with the Egyptian Army, Ahmed came to the United States in May 1980. He first worked in the service industry, then a chemical company, and finally opened his own travel agency. He currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, where as the President of the Islamic Center of Jersey City he promotes inter-religious understanding and cultivates community involvement and enrichment for the region’s Muslim community. Mr. Shedeed also serves as Honorary Deputy Mayor for Arab Affairs in Jersey City where he promotes cultural and educational programs for the Arab community and the broader Jersey City community. Mr. Shedeed also serves as a member of the FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association’s Outreach Committee, where he works to foster relations between the FBI and the community. He is a member of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Muslim Outreach Committee, and serves on the Interfaith Advisory Council to the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security. In addition, Mr. Shedeed is responsible for developing innovative partnerships between the Jersey City Muslim community and the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he has helped to create an educational and cultural exchange program for West Point cadets.

Mr. Shedeed, his wife, and three children, are proud to call New Jersey — and America — home. I’m proud to call them my constituents.