September 4, 2008

Rochester’s 200 Iranian Americans

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting down with about ten IAs at a restaurant in Rochester, MN.  The town of 99,000+, the third largest in Minnesota, is home of the renowned Mayo Clinic medical facility (treating the likes of George HW Bush, Henry Kissinger, Jalal Talibani, and King Hussein of Jordan), which employs about a third of the city’s working-age residents.  The Clinic, and its associated School of Medicine and various medical fellowship and residency programs are a big draw for Iranian American students and that is reflected in the Iranian American community that has been formed in Rochester.


So as you can imagine, we had a vibrant and eclectic conversation about our community’s political activism, healthcare laws, the Presidential election, and…  tax policy!! 

If ever there was evidence that the IA community is not a single-issue ethnic group, it was in evidence at Chester’s restaurant on the main strip of Broadway Avenue on Wednesday evening.  The conversation and dinner started with the usual ‘Iranian Standard Time’ delay of 45 minutes (this is one cultural habit I can’t wait for us to drop), but fell into a full swing rather quickly.


Few of the attendees were familiar with NIAC, though most had heard of the organization through a local member and avid supporter.  It goes to show that our members are the most important and valuable form of promotion for NIAC’s mission and continued growth.  It is an important element of our goal, and as a member, we rely on you to spread the word about NIAC and introduce more Iranian Americans to this organization.


So following a presentation of NIAC’s history, mission, and priorities, we talked about NIAC’s recent achievements in stopping H.Con.Res 362 from passing, immigration issues, and the importance of having the know-how and the ‘early warning system’ for our community to be pro-active about legislation such as this rather than being re-active like our community was about NSEERS in 2003.


The reaffirming part of this meeting for me was that most of those in attendance last night considered themselves Republican or Republican-leaning but remained opposed to war and were broadly supportive of diplomacy.  There was quite a bit of curiosity about the Republican Convention in St. Paul and many wished they could join Patrick and me inside the Xcel center.


But I must admit, of all the Iranian Americans I have met around the country over the past 18 months, this group had the most lively discussion and debate on tax-policy.  For a bunch of Doctors, Residents, and Fellows, they sure knew the intricacies of the tax code.


After dinner, we all went across the street to watch the Governor Sarah Palin give her acceptance speech, which was recieved with mixed results by the group.  One of whom may write a guest-post about it here.


To the 200 or so Iranian Americans in Rochester (their numbers), It was a pleasure meeting a few of you and I wish I could join you at one of bi-weekly pic-nics you all organize in your area. Our community is proud of your achievements.

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