U.S. Representative Gabe Amo, D-R.I., says taking office this week has been “a bit surreal.” He told theGrio, “I’m honored.”
“The work Congress is doing is so relevant to so many people’s lives, and the ability to serve people in the 1st Congressional District of Rhode Island is something that I’ve had the opportunity to do behind the scenes,” he added. “But, to have your name on the door is a humbling experience.”
On Monday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., held a swearing-in ceremony for the first Black representative from the state of Rhode Island.
The ceremony comes less than a week after Amo won a special election to fill a seat left vacant by former Democratic U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, who stepped down in the summer to spearhead the Rhode Island Foundation.
The former Biden-Harris White House staffer told theGrio, as the first person of color to represent the Ocean State, “I stand on the shoulders of so many people who came before me.”
“I have the opportunity to serve people across the state, and it means a lot to me because I know that there are folks who are watching me,” he said.
Amo continued, “There are young people watching me whose life may change because they saw me serve them in a state that they may not have predicted to have a Black person.”
In a statement obtained by theGrio, Rep. Steven Horsford, D- Nev., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), welcomed Amo as the 60th member of the caucus. Horsford said the freshman congressman will serve in Congress “at a pivotal time in our nation’s history.”
“[Rep. Amo] will bring to the CBC and the House Democratic Caucus a diversity of lived experience and a shared commitment to standing up to extreme Republicans, keeping our communities safe, and protecting our fundamental freedoms,” Horsford wrote.
Rep. Amo told theGrio that since taking office, Horsford has served as a valuable mentor.
“He has helped me really establish my narrative and one that is of hard work, great resilience and determination,” he said. “We all have a bit of that story, and his mentorship has been tremendous.”
In a press conference earlier this month, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters, “It’s an honor to be a part of the Congressional Black Caucus to stand on the historic shoulders of so many giants.”
“Now with the historic election of Gabe Amo…to hit that 60th [CBC member], I think is an incredible milestone,” he said.
“The Congressional Black Caucus is not just an important part of the House Democratic Caucus family, but the Congressional Black Caucus…the conscience of the Congress in so many ways,” added Jeffries. “Fighting for social justice and economic justice and racial justice to lift up all Americans.”
Amo told theGrio, “To have the Leader of the Democratic Party, who I hope to one day vote for [as] speaker, be a member of…the conscience of the Congress means so much to me.”
He shared, “Every member of CBC member has embraced me with warmth and has tried to get me to accelerate some of my work so that I can hit the ground running.”
The Democratic lawmaker added that, while he is in office, he vows to tackle issues of gun violence, Medicare, women’s rights, and climate change.
“When I look at an issue like gun violence, I’ve already spoken with [Georgia] Congresswoman [Lucy] McBath about the work on that legislation,” said Amo.
“My predecessor [Rep. Cicilline] was one of the champions of an assault weapons ban,” he added. “I hope to carry that mantle as well. Enough is enough when it comes to violence that is driven by the guns and weapons of war that are on our streets.”
Earlier this week, Jeffries recommended that Congressman Amo serve on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Amo told theGrio, “As a child of West African immigrants” and someone who has worked behind the scenes in Rhode Island, he believes he will be able to work with his colleagues to stabilize nations across the globe.
“I think my worldview has been informed by my immigrant story,” he said.
“We are in a moment where the global theater is unstable. We have the conflict in Ukraine driven by Russia’s aggression. We have the Israel-Hamas war that is happening,” he continued.
“I think there is no more important place for me to be at this time to really lean into our ability as the United States to bring great stability to the world.”
As Rep. Amo lives out his first few days in Congress, he says he is filled with gratitude.
“I just want to say thank you to the voters of Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District, and thank you to so many who have found my story…a Rhode Island story but…also an American story, and for taking part in our victory,” he said.
In April, Amo stepped down from his position at the White House, where he served as the special assistant to the president and deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for two years.
In a previous interview, Rep. Amo told theGrio that he left the Biden-Harris administration to run for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District seat because Americans “deserve better.”
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