Sen. Al Franken talks about Willmar in Sessions hearing
WILLMAR -- U.S. Sen. Al Franken has once again placed Willmar in a national spotlight, this time during his questioning of attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting this week. Sessions, a Republican senator ...
WILLMAR - U.S. Sen. Al Franken has once again placed Willmar in a national spotlight, this time during his questioning of attorney general-designate Jeff Sessions in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting this week.
Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, is President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general.
Franken has spoken before about his visit to Willmar Senior High School for the graduation of the Class of 2016 and about the school's diversity. He was at the graduation to introduce one of the speakers, Muna Abdulahi. They had met when she was a Senate page in 2015.
Franken this week also mentioned Willmar's first Somali-American homecoming queen, Anisa Abdulahi, who is Muna's younger sister.
Franken has mentioned Willmar's graduation several times in settings with a national audience, including on a cable network during the Democratic National Convention last summer.
Franken's office posted a 5-minute video of his hearing statement on his official Facebook page.
Franken spoke about Trump's campaign statements against Muslims and of Sessions' statements that a ban on Muslims was "appropriate to discuss," and America is facing an "unprecedented assimilation problem."
He continued, "You know, senator, part of what makes that assimilation challenging is when people seeking to lead this country exploit fear and anxiety and redirect that fear toward our immigrant and refugee communities."
Franken recalled a conversation with a French diplomat who told him a Frenchman is someone who can "trace back a couple centuries to their family in a French village."
"They take that attitude in Europe; we don't take this attitude; and it's dangerous to take it," he said.
A St. Paul middle school teacher called Franken's office after the election and invited him to visit, because her students were frightened.
Franken said he did his best to lessen their fears.
"These kids did not know what to make of their country electing a leader who describes them and their families as worthy of hatred and suspicion," he said. "I told them, 'You kids, you're Americans; don't be afraid.'"
Franken referred to the Willmar graduation as "one of the most beautiful events I've been to."
On Election Day 2016, he saw Muna Abdulahi on the University of Minnesota campus, where she is now a student. She told him her sister had just been elected homecoming queen.
After pausing to look at Sessions and the committee, he said, "In Europe, they don't assimilate people. Here in the United States, we vote them homecoming queen."
The video can be found on his Facebook page: facebook.com/senatoralfranken/