When I took the oath of office, as the newly elected mayor of the South Windsor, CT, the fact that I am the first mayor of the Muslim faith in CT, was the last thing on my mind. I am a critical care physician. When I enter the ICU, my patient's condition, rather than my faith, is foremost in my mind. Having earned a master's degree in public health, I see personal and public health as analogous. Each requires an in-depth diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan in order to remain vital and healthy.
Understandably, I have received a good deal of attention because of my heritage and faith. I have served on the South Windsor Town Council for the past three years. During that time, my faith has rarely been an issue. South Windsor is a town in which there is a great deal of diversity. I consider this to be one of our town's greatest assets. My election affirms that fact that the voters of our town judge candidates on their performance as leaders. I consider my faith to be a personal matter. My priority, as mayor, is to serve all the citizens by addressing the immediate and future needs of our town. I do, however, have a vested interest in creating an atmosphere in which differences are respected and diversity is viewed as a resource.
I have traveled extensively throughout the world. This has provided insight and understanding about how other cultures perceive the United States. One of my reasons for seeking public office was to show people from other areas of the world that a man, regardless of his faith or origin, can be elected to public office in this country. We often hear Muslim countries portrayed in ways that do not represent the immense challenges, threats and difficulties that the average individual experiences every day. Conversely, the media in many Muslim majority countries does not portray this country in a fair and accurate way.
We are a country of immigrants in which we strive to give equal opportunities to everyone who abides by the laws and is willing to contribute to society. We welcome participation in the process of governing as a right and responsibility. The United States is the standard of freedom, opportunity and quality of life, that so many other countries strive to emulate.
The world is becoming a "smaller" place. No longer can we, as individuals and communities, think of ourselves as autonomous. We must compete for business and services not only locally, but nationally and internationally. Schools are measuring their performance again every educational system in the world. Businesses are being outsourced and the internet allows us to shop anywhere in the world from the comfort of homes. Speaking five languages has helped me understand people through the prism of their own experience. Our next generation will need language skills, cultural competency and a powerful entrepreneurial spirit. The well-traveled phrase, "think globally," has never been so pertinent.
While a plan to maintain fiscal health is imperative, we cannot neglect our countries' mental and spiritual health. America's unwavering dedication to freedom, self-governance and acceptance of diversity makes us unique in the world. While there are always vitriolic and dissenting voices, they too are part of the fabric of our nation. Unlike so many other countries, we can sit down together and negotiate disagreements... most of the time. We have a justice system second to none. Is this country perfect? Probably not, but we keep trying. Beyond all, we are the fortunate heirs to an American legacy -- begun by the Founding Fathers -- of truth, freedom and opportunity for all.
That is why I came here and why I am proud to call the United States my country. That is why I ran for office and why I try to serve the citizens who have placed their trust in me. Yes, my religious faith is a driving force in my life, as is the faith I have in my fellow Americans.