On July 20th, the Lt. Governor of Washington was speaking at a summer retreat for the top brass at the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. His primary points regarded the future of higher education funding, the elevation of public understanding and support of community/technical colleges, as well as how to motivate students at these schools through inspirational messaging. Perhaps something is lost en route in communication to incoming students, something garbled in the notion that college education leads to job-skills, which leads to skilled jobs and, failing that, severe and unqualified debt.
Cyrus Habib frequently steps up to podiums, and his federal website tracks the updating journey of a tireless orator and socially aware systems-changing presence who probably knows a thing or two about motivation firsthand. Born in Baltimore to Iranian immigrant parents (his mother is currently a Superior Court Judge), the Lt. Governor has been fully blind since eight years old, resultant from juvenile cancer, and one of three instances in his life where he fought the disease. Public education—such as Bellevue College, which offered accessibility to blind high-school students like him for math and science classes—was a critical component of his journey, one which eventually would yield Habib the distinguished accolades of a Truman Scholarship in his undergraduate studies, a Rhodes Scholarship, and a Soros Fellowship. These remain a small sampling of his academic achievements, but at 35 years old his professional accomplishments are considerable without even mentioning his present seat of office.
In Washington State, the Lieutenant Governor presides over the senate, escalating to acting-governor in circumstances when the current governor (Jay Inslee(D-WA)) is out-of-state or unable to serve, and fully taking on the role if the position becomes suddenly vacant. In this capacity, Habib has the distinction of being the first Iranian-American ever elected to state legislature.
Far from being a staid career-politician, Habib’s passionate pursuit of social justice has produced results in a variety of sectors, as an individual who identifies “with people who are told they can’t do something, people who have been marginalized.” He has continually prioritized such issues as immigrant rights, governmental transparency, marginalized people, societal re-entry for the previously incarcerated, and enabling public commentary on governmental policy.
Habib maintains membership on a wide variety of boards and councils, but last week accepted a new role on the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a long-running non-partisan, non-profit think-tank and publisher, well known for their reputable international relations bi-monthly journal Foreign Affairs. Habib joins an expansive roster—including former Vice President Joe Biden, Virgin founder Richard Branson, actor George Clooney, among many others—whose stated goals are to support and inform governmental policy on international relations, primarily through the exchange of information among modern-day influencers and public office-holders.
Considering his own established influence and track record, CFR membership will further circulate Habib’s perspective and point of view towards even more individuals across a spectrum of backgrounds and ability. The Lt. Governor prevails as an exemplary icon of the immigrant narrative in the US, an Iranian-American whose presence and path of action represents a determined force for effective change and protection of the marginalized.