You can become who you choose to become.: Becoming Minnesotan

Male silhouette.
  • Name - Mohamed Jama
  • Age at interview - 27
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 06.21.2004
  • Somali girls dancing, Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis, June 2004.

    Freedom, Somali

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Opportunities in America: What kind of opportunities does this person see in America that he/she did not have in the homeland?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Somali refugees knew something about the U.S. before they resettled there. Whether through the stories of others or through watching television, they often get the impression that life in America is carefree and happy. Americans have personal rights which many people living elsewhere do not have, and most importantly to Somalis, the U.S. is viewed as a place where residents do not have to live in fear of constant warfare.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mohamed M. Jama 5
    1:52 Minutes | 1.8Mb


    Narrator: Mohamed M. Jama (MJ)

    Interviewer: Andy Wilhide (AW)

    MJ:  My father was a diplomat so he used to tell stories. For us, getting those stories, we used to take it real seriously. He traveled a lot around the world, you know, kind of going around discussing political issues and stuff.

    AW:  What were some of the stories that your dad told you?

    MJ:  Some of the stories my dad told me was… “It is a very peaceful place,” and, “You can become who you choose to become.” He said, “Remember that tomorrow is not promised to you. It’s only promised to a fool. But you can make that tomorrow happen for yourself.” The stories were a part of saying that Americans are people who believe in bettering others.

    The stories were funny stories. He used to tell me that you can go to America and you see people putting their keys underneath their welcome mat. People freely open their doors. Holidays are like the biggest things. Where people are very friendly, very inviting. How can I say this? When someone is in need, there's people who are willing to give some of that deed back to that person in need. He told me, “You can be you. You don’t have to hide yourself behind, 'Oh, you believe in this, this.' You can be you. You’re a free man to exercise whatever want to exercise there mentally.” I cannot get to most of his stories because I was very young. It did not prepare me for the real America, you know.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  To improve; to encourage to succeed.  (betters, bettering, bettered)


    Noun:  An official representative of a government that represents that government when interacting with a separate government.


    Noun:  Debate; controversy; problem.


    Adverb:  Concerning or related to politics, the art and process of governing.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 552