Ismaeel Hummeid was born in a country now governed by a ruler who wouldn’t think twice about killing him.
On Thursday evening, the 20-year-old college student from Syria was standing in the halls of power, introducing himself to Gov. Mitch Daniels, a man who’s served two presidents in the White House.
The setting was the Governor’s Iftar Dinner at the Indiana Statehouse; an annual event held during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was started by Daniels and the Muslim Alliance of Indiana eight years ago, after Daniels first took office.
Hummeid is a Muslim and Daniels is a Christian but they share a connection. Daniels’ paternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Syria, a nation now wracked by civil war.
In the nearly 18-month-long uprising against a brutal dictator, more than 18,000 Syrians – many the age of Hummeid – have died and nearly 170,000 have fled the country.
Also at the Governor’s Iftar dinner: 16-year-old Wiem Eloued, a smart young woman and exchange student from Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring. It was the popular uprising of Tunisians against their oppressive leader in December 2010 that triggered a wave of revolts in other Arab nations.
I’ve seen people who looked delighted on meeting Daniels, who can be so personable especially with young people.
Both Hummeid and Eloued looked almost overcome with emotion, especially when Daniels told them how proud and pleased he was to meet them. “I’m always glad when people with talent come to Indiana,” Daniels said.
Hummeid left the encounter saying Daniels inspired him. “He makes me want to do something good with my life,” Hummeid said.
Daniels has taken some heat for the Iftar dinners, from people who believe Muslims have no business praying in the Statehouse.
But Daniels has pushed back, reminding those critics that most of the Muslims who come to the Iftar dinners are Hoosiers, many of them architects, engineers, doctors, and teachers who’ve lived in Indiana for years and raised their children here.
Daniels rarely wears his faith on his sleeve, but Thursday’s dinner offered a glimpse into what he believes. In his welcoming remarks, he talked about the things that connect people of faith, including this: “We are all free because of the God who made us.”
Daniels has prayed with offenders in Indiana’s prisons; he hung the portrait of a Roman Catholic nun canonized as saint in his Statehouse office; he returned to the Sikh temple in Indianapolis – where he’s been before – after six people were shot and killed at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin earlier this month.
After the final Governor’s Iftar Dinner last week, Daniels said he was pleased the event had become such a tradition – a piece of the legacy he’ll leave behind when he officially leaves office early next years.
“Since it’s the beginning, I’ve been conscious of the imperative to serve everyone,” Daniels said, “people of all faiths and and people with no faith at all.”
He said he did so because he wanted Indiana to be seen as a place “that is open to all and accepting of all faiths.”
“It’s a fundamental American principle,” Daniels continued. “It’s the fundamental American principle. It’s how we got here.”
- News Columns
MIKE LUNSFORD: Remembering Mom a day after Mother’s Day
I don’t think there has been a day in the last eight years that I haven’t thought of my mom. Being all grown up with wrinkles to call my own doesn’t make me miss my parents any less.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘Dowsers’ provide hope more than science
My grandfather was a man of God. Many times I saw him, his right hand held high in the air at his Wednesday night “prayer meeting,” praising the Lord before weeping at the altar on his knees. And yet, he was a “dowser,” a “diviner,” a “witcher” who, as a favor, would grab a forked sassafras stick and find water for some poor unfortunate whose well had gone dry.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
HAYDEN: 9-year-old lobbyist weighs in on school safety
Senate Bill 1 shot to the forefront last week, after it was amended by the House education committee with a provision that mandates every public school in Indiana would be required to have someone on staff armed with a loaded gun during school hours.
HAYDEN: Republican shift proving to be real
When a federal judge struck down key provisions of the state’s immigration law last week, it seemed anticlimactic.
LUNSFORD: A different kind of resurrection story, no foolin’
If you’ve had pets in your family long enough, it’s likely that you’ll see a miracle or two — a dog that couldn’t possibly have lived, but did; a cat that grew to 20 pounds after being born the runt of the litter; a goldfish that had been belly-up too many times to believe it could have survived another day.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Americans of Hispanic heritage becoming active in Republican party
When Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly decided earlier this year to put off a vote on locking the state’s same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution, it sent a signal that GOP leaders were evolving on the issue of marriage equality.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MIKE LUNSFORD: As of today, it’s unofficially spring
Despite the calendar telling us not to rush things, I think it is all right to go ahead and say spring is here. The Ides of March has passed, Easter is coming soon, and I have already been out in my yard with a rake, getting my boots muddy. It looks like spring to me.
Americans for Prosperity aim to browbeat GOP lawmakers
If you're outside the Indianapolis TV market, you may not have seen yet the Americans for Prosperity ad that demonizes the House Republicans for resisting Republican Gov. Mike Pence's tax cut plan.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Pence may find himself in a mess if he gets what he wants
Here’s a story to consider: A Republican governor with ties to the tea party and possible presidential ambitions decides he wants to slash the state’s income tax rate, but meets with massive resistance from legislative leaders from his own party.
Sounds like the scenario playing out in the Indiana Statehouse, right?
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
MIKE LUNSFORD: If handwriting is a window to my soul, I’m glad this is typewritten…
Somewhere in the mess I call my “archives,” I have most of my grade school report cards hidden away. I have kept them under wraps, because I want to be long gone when my children — or grandchildren — unearth them and discover that their self-righteous teacher of a dad was, in fact, a terrible student in his formative years.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Are legislators gambling with the future of gaming?
Indiana lawmakers have been debating whether to give the state’s casinos more financial incentives to compete with the shiny new gambling palaces popping up in Ohio.
MARK BENNETT: Never truer: Knowledge vital to narrowing ‘skills gap’
The pillar at the gates of Faber College in the movie “Animal House” bore a wise motto, despite its tongue-in-cheek intent …
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Pot decriminalization bill dead, but reduced-punishment aspect still alive
In the flurry of activity at the Statehouse in recent weeks, I missed reporting some sad news for stoners: The legislation to decriminalize marijuana is dead.
MARK BENNETT: Great-niece to re-enact Paul Dresser’s musical legacy in Terre Haute show
People can be forgotten. Their lives end, time passes and memories fade.
Often, the only keepers of their legacies are family and friends, who tell and retell their stories, generation to generation.
For Paul Dresser, his fame burned strong enough as a turn-of-the-century, million-seller songwriter to preserve bits of his public notoriety.
MIKE LUNSFORD: The ‘lovely gift’ of a beech tree …
This is not the season that I usually write of trees, for besides a few pin oaks that hang on to the most stubborn of leaves, my woods stand bare and dormant and cold right now. My trees are patiently awaiting the green of spring that I feel, for some reason, is to arrive a little earlier this year than is usual.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: What to do with that $2 billion sitting around
We Hoosiers like to think of ourselves as special, but when it comes to the current debate in the Indiana Statehouse over the budget, we’re a lot like other states: Grappling with some post-recession questions about how to balance spending and taxes.
MARK BENNETT: An Olympic takedown
Imagine an iconic image of American sports history erased.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Pence sticks to his ‘Roadmap’
As a U.S. congressman, Mike Pence made it perfectly clear how he felt about the need for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s ‘skills gap’
A problem lasting decades ceases to be a “problem.” By then, the situation becomes “part of the culture.”
MIKE LUNSFORD: Twain’s Sawyer helps us yearn for ‘wilderness of childhood’
My cousin, Roger, stopped in one day last summer for a glass of tea and a little conversation. Rog has lived an hour’s drive away for years and now, and besides summer reunions, I don’t see him nearly often enough. He’s a good man who has raised a good family, and he owns a healthy sense of appreciation for not only the life he has now, but also the lives we had years ago as kids.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE:Supreme Court providing convenient cover for GOP
If GOP leaders in the Indiana General Assembly announce this week, as expected, that they’re postponing a vote on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions, you can expect them to cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to step into the larger issue later this year as the primary reason.
MARK BENNETT: America’s best quality of life? Indiana must address flaws, set priorities
Just as the job interview seems smooth, the interviewer drops the question.
“So, where do you see yourself in five years?”
MARK BENNETT: Pondering what is meant by ‘quality of life’ to Hoosiers
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
You cross paths with a friend, ask how they’re doing, and they say, “Ah, just livin’ the dream.”
Livin’ the dream. What exactly does that involve? Can it be defined?
- More News Columns Headlines
- MIKE LUNSFORD: Remembering Mom a day after Mother’s Day