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Habib draws on life experience to serve 48th district
Rep. Cyrus Habib of the 48th District lost his eyesight to cancer at age 8. He's never let it keep him from success. This month, Habib became the first Iranian American elected to the Legislature.
When Habib was in the third grade, he can remember the teachers scolding him for trying to climb the jungle gym at school. One night he told his mom about the incident. Habib's mom was a lawyer and understood the risks, but was upset her son couldn't participate in certain playground activities. The next day, she promised to sign any waivers or liability forms allowing her son to play alongside the other kids.
"I can deal with a broken arm," she told his teachers. "I can't deal with a broken spirit."
The first-time politician, a Democrat, defeated Redmond City Council member Hank Myers, a Republican, and will represent parts of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Medina, Clyde Hill and and Yarrow Point and Hunts Point.
Habib is a lawyer, but has always been involved with service work. He volunteers as a trustee of the Bellevue College Foundation and is a human services commissioner for the City of Bellevue.
Though he studied literature at Oxford and law at Yale, Habib had his hand in politics from a young age. He worked as an intern for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and later interned under U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"What an accessible political climate we have here," said Habib of entering politics in Washington state. "There's a real receptiveness to new ideas and new people. I felt like I could come here, and early on, be effective."
Habib battled cancer three times in his life. He finds it important to share his disability and life story with constituents, but doesn't want it to overshadow his qualifications or reasons for representing the 48th District.
"That's not how I'm running and that's not how I want to be thought of," he said. "But I do think it's important to tell my life story…As voters and constituents it's helpful to understand my biography because it shows what’s important to me."
A graduate of the Bellevue Public Schools, he finds education funding to be one of the most critical issues facing the state this budgetary cycle. Doorbelling during his campaign reinforced that need.
"When I talked about the affordability of college and education, it really resonated with people. I think a lot of people sense and feel that public universities are not delivering the promise of an affordable education for middle-class Americans. (Talking to my constituents) really solidified my desire to fight for education funding," he said.
Habib now uses adaptive software that reads what is on his computer screen. It allows him to respond to emails from constituents. But his own experience at the Bellevue International School, he believes, paved the way for much of his success. When the school couldn't accommodate him in math and science classes because of his disability, Bellevue College opened its doors to him and gave him his first taste of higher education.
"What all those institutions are, is a reflection of our values," said Habib. "They were built and funded by taxpayers and their elected officials who believed that hard work, plus opportunity can equal success. These were the opportunities created for me."
Campaigning for the 48th District has left him exhilarated, he said. Even today, he finds landmarks from his early years — the Barnes and Noble where he studied for his SAT and a Kirkland shopping center where he hadn't been since he was a teenager.
"This was always home for me," Habib said of returning to serve the 48th District. "Bellevue was really the ecosystem in which I overcame some very difficult obstacles, to go on and achieve great things today. I always saw myself coming back to this place."