DES MOINES, Iowa — Born to Burundi parents in a Tanzanian refugee camp, Des Moines North High School senior Robert Nishimwe is thankful for the better life they chose by coming to America when he seven years old. “In the U.S. there will be educational opportunities and different opportunities you get that you cannot in this refugee camp in Tanzania,” said Robert.
Now a leader among his peers, in an American classroom, Robert still has strong pride in his African roots. He said, “This is where I know home is and I love the music and I love the language of Swahili.” On Thursday when news broke that president Donald Trump allegedly put down African nations, Haitians and Salvadorans with vulgar language, Robert took it as a personal attack on his heritage but he was not surprised. “To me it just confirmed what I always had in my heart, that this country somehow managed to elect a racist into the office of the Presidency.”
In December, Robert, who is President of North’s National Honor Society and a student member on the State Board of Education, was one of two Iowa students awarded to participate in the 56th annual United States Senate Youth Program which will travel to the nation’s capital and spend nearly an hour with President Trump this March. “However I feel about the President, it is still an honor to be in the presence of the Presidency, the office. So it is an honor and shows the hard work I have put into achieving my dreams,” Robert said. The comments, which Trump has since denied, have shown a contrast from the America that welcomed him as a seven year old. He said, “When you see a country that took in your family, gave a refuge and opportunities to your family, elect an individual who somehow views a place you came from as a s*** hole, excuse my language but it is sad.” Feelings that have now fostered a question Robert just might ask when he comes face to face with the President of the United States. “What did people that don’t look like you ever do to this country, do to you, for you to describe them in this fashion, for you to see them in this lens?
The United States Senate Youth Program takes place in Washington D.C. from March 3-10. Each honoree receives a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship. In college, Robert hopes to study public policy and foreign relations.