The University of Kentucky has its first Rhodes Scholar in 63 years, and here’s the best part: she is a Muslim woman from Lexington who will go to Oxford to study about refugees, forced migration, global governance and diplomacy.
Wow. How many Kentucky stereotypes can we bust with a single stroke?
Hadeel Abdallah, daughter of Younes Abdallah and Maissa Abdallah and a graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, is obviously an exceptional young lady, even without being named Monday as one of this year’s 32 American Rhodes Scholars.
At UK, where she graduates in May with a double major in political science and Arabic and Islamic studies, Abdallah received both Chellgren and Gaines fellowships, held leadership positions and founded a scholarship program for underrepresented Kentucky students.
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An aspiring lawyer, she has interned in city government, the Kentucky General Assembly and Congress. Earlier this year, she became only the 14th UK student to ever win a Truman Scholarship. Now, she is off to Oxford University in England next fall for graduate studies.
Other Kentuckians have won Rhodes Scholarships in recent years, such as Lexingtonians Logan Jackson (Northeastern University) in 2015 and Victor Yang (Harvard University) in 2011. But having a winner come out of a Kentucky university is even sweeter, and this one could not have come at a better time.
Kentucky needs some good PR among intelligent, tolerant people. President Donald Trump carried this state two years ago by nearly 30 points. With the exception of one Louisville congressman, Kentucky is now represented in Congress by Republicans who have enable Trump’s racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee attitudes and policies.
The Rhodes Trust this year selected 21 women for scholarships — the most ever in a class. Nearly half the winners are immigrants or first-generation Americans.
The world is changing rapidly, and it is in desperate need of bright, young leaders who can move humanity forward toward future peace and prosperity, rather than backward toward nationalism, hate and war, as so many current leaders seem determined to do.
Congratulations, Hadeel Abdallah. You make so many Kentuckians proud. Please tell everyone you meet in Oxford where you are from.