Laying the Groundwork for a Virginia Delegate
Sam Rasoul's General Assembly seat had not even warmed before he introduced his first bill: HB 1128, centering on cooperative career and technical education emerged during his first week. He followed that quickly by joining the Rural Caucus and carrying a bill for the National Organization for Women that redefines stalking. The 32-year-old freshman delegate from Roanoke's 11th House District has been an Energizer Bunny since finally getting voter approval on his third run for office.
He failed in runs for U.S. Congress (2008) and the Roanoke mayor's seat (2012), but never wavered in his belief that public office awaited him, and in the fall of 2013 he won a squeaker of a Democratic primary before emerging from the general election with 70 percent of the vote.
Rasoul '02 may be a newbie in Richmond, but there's not much green about his approach: "Most important to me has been building relationships on both sides of the aisle so as to try to get things done," he says. That was especially evident with his first bill, which had broad Republican and Democratic support. "The people want good public policy and they expect us to work together for this to happen. I have learned that if you have a productive approach and tone, more people are willing to listen than not."
Sam Rasoul '02 being sworn in as a member of Virginia House of Delegates
The politicization of Sam Rasoul is something of a recent phenomenon. When he was at Roanoke College at the turn of this century, he was mostly apolitical, though he was class president as a junior. "I never thought about running for public office," he says, "never took a political science class, but my professors gave me a very well-rounded liberal arts education which has allowed me to take a holistic view of the world around me."
Ideas stuck to Rasoul like Velcro. "Most important was the significant impact that my wonderful professors had on my development," he says now. "Very qualified and invested, my professors were excellent in every field. Great humanities teachers taught me to be a better communicator. A top-notch business department can go up against many MBA programs."
"Many professors had a profound impact on my ethical development and thought process as I searched to conceptualize and organize ideas and thoughts I picked up growing up in a working class family," he says. "Never had a bad teacher or a bad class, just a bad grade every once in a while." He smiles with that thought.
Rasoul is the man with the smile, the brightest guy in the room, a Muslim in a Christian society who finds no handicap in that fact. His family immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s to avoid war and even though his general election opponent tried to make a negative of his religion, Rasoul simply ignored the implication and ran as Sam Rasoul, Virginian with a plan.
At Roanoke College, he says, "I learned how to learn ... I figured how my mind best processes different types of information. More important, I was able to learn how others process different types of information, which in turn helped me to learn how to communicate. I experienced a broad spectrum of perspectives on life."
That's where his penchant for building coalitions began, he believes. With that positive outlook comes youth. "Being young helps because I have the energy to invest in helping craft good public policy. I have not yet forgotten the experiences that helped to shape me, but I still appreciate the need to learn and grow every single day."
By Dan Smith