Ahmed Receives US State Department Citizen Diplomat Award

Leadership in strengthening relationships and advancing US foreign policy recognized
2020 Citizen Diplomat Award Winner Mohamed Amin Ahmed

Mohamed Amin Ahmed (BA ‘20, speech communication) received this year’s US State Department Bureau of Global Public Affairs the Citizen Diplomacy Award in recognition of his leadership in strengthening relationships and advancing US foreign policy priorities globally. 

Founder, chairman, and executive director of Average Mohamed, Ahmed works to counter violent extremism, engaging his audience in a meaningful discussion about Islamic values and ideals. In creating and launching his cartoon “Average Mohamed,” Ahmed has helped to spread democratic ideals to a global audience and is recognized as a citizen diplomat who has helped counter anti-democracy narratives and intolerance.

Ahmed answered a few questions about his work and how it led to his receiving the award: 

What have been some of the surprises you've encountered as you created Average Mohamed?

The good is that our communities embraced my method. I got invited into spaces of mosques, madrasa, schools, youth groups, sporting teams for youths, and churches. I did not plan on that, but the invitations to speak kept coming. I spoke to 60,000 kids over six years.

What did you think when you learned about the US State Department award?

I was humbled and knew that I have made an impact in my country and the world. 

While at the University of Minnesota, what program had the greatest impact on your journey?

The study of communications from public speaking, oratory, critical thinking, and history classes. They all helped shape my work.

What would you say to someone who doesn't think a liberal arts education is of value or relevant?

The world needs out-of-the-box thinkers, and the liberal arts shapes you to think that way. The faculty show you about those who came before you and their thinking and they urge you to define yourself and think for yourself.

How did your CLA degree prepare you for your life journey?

With the proper knowledge, I am prepared to advance the cause of liberty, freedom, justice, and human rights. I am prepared to take on extremism such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Al Shabab in messaging. I work against hate of Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and anti-Christianity. These are all the things my University of Minnesota drilled into me as a student, especially in the College of Liberal Arts.

What do you envision on the horizon...especially given the current political climate?

America is divided. We have formed tribes and are shouting each other down. But the core of what makes us Americans remains the same. In this summer of racial awakening, #Me Too, and pandemic lockdowns, at our core we are Americans 

How can we each take positive action for change?

Believe in humanity. Believe in good overcoming evil. Then go to work at it. Relentlessly without excuses, just do it.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself on your first day as a UMN undergraduate?

As a student, you are lucky to have the professors and teaching assistants you have. Use them. They are the most important connection to knowledge. 

I came to the U of M as a 40-year-old--an old head. Yet they made time for me, over and over again. They took their time to educate and impart knowledge. I am a very proud Gopher and College of Liberal Arts graduate, taking on the world with that knowledge. It feels good.


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