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Letter leads to meeting with President Obama

Letter leads to meeting with President Obama

Loyola sophomore Noor Abdelfattah met President Barack Obama after writing him a letter about the misconceptions people have of Muslim Americans. “When I think of being an American, I don’t think of us versus them,” Abdelfattah said. “It’s just we as a whole.” (White House photo)

By Anna Gaynor

While some students may have spent their summer at an internship, part-time job, or the beach, Noor Abdelfattah had a once-in-a-lifetime experience she will never forget.

It started with a letter—and ended with meeting the president of the United States.

“I honestly wrote it just one afternoon,” said Abdelfattah, a Glenview, Illinois, native and sophomore at Loyola. “I wrote it within two to three hours, and then I just sent it. If I knew this would’ve happened I would’ve put a little more effort in, but, I mean, I guess it’s all good.”

As a Muslim American, she felt the need to write the letter because she wanted to address common misconceptions people have about her faith and the roles of Middle Eastern immigrants and their families in the U.S. (You can read the letter she sent to the president on the White House website.)

“My story, just how my family came here, what they went through, and where we are right now, shows our accomplishments,” Abdelfattah said. “With hard work and dedication, just like any other American, Muslim Americans can accomplish a lot.”

After she sent the letter, Abdelfattah thought that was the end of it. A few weeks later, she got a voice mail from a number she didn’t recognize. Turns out it was a staff member from the White House inviting her to a dinner celebrating Muslim Americans as well as Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

At first, Abdelfattah wasn’t too nervous about the dinner. That is until the morning of the July 21 event, when the staff revealed a surprise: She was one of 15 attendees who would be meeting and having their photo taken with President Barack Obama. Then she got nervous—but in a good way.

In spite of her nerves, celebrating with so many remarkable Muslim Americans reflected back to Abdelfattah the exact message she wanted tell the president in the first place.

“I wanted to focus my letter on that, on how even though we may be perceived as different, we do pretty much everything any other American does,” she said. “Even at the event, there were literally people from a variety of areas. There were people who work in the government, there was the Olympian (Ibtihaj Muhammad), there were people who serve in our military. It just showed how even though this country is diverse—we’re all pretty much the same.”

With the new school year starting just weeks after her trip to Washington, D.C., Abdelfattah is looking ahead with excitement, and her brief meeting with President Obama has left a lasting impression.

“Coming to Loyola and living in this country, when I think of being an American, I don’t think of us versus them,” Abdelfattah said. “It’s just we as a whole. We have to definitely support each other and stick with one another, especially when facing difficulties and hardships.”