Transformed and rewired: Sen. Fady Qaddoura’s life in public service
INDIANAPOLIS—Eleven years ago, when Fady Qaddoura first began working as an intern for the Indiana Senate legal office, a former staffer in the IT department asked him his name and where he was from. Qaddoura answered, and the staffer said, “Oh, you’re one of these effing terrorists that just came from overseas.”
The people working in the legal office reported the incident, and the employee was disciplined.
Qaddoura has continuously pushed past the turning points in his life and those that have impacted the nation to pursue public service and became the first Arab-Muslim lawmaker in state history.
Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, a Palestinian-American, is serving in a time when racism and discrimination are a matter of contention in the U.S.
The senator defeated incumbent Republican John Ruckelshaus in Senate District 30 by a narrow margin with 52% of the vote, in the 2020 election.
The tipping point
Growing up on the West Bank of Israel in the city of Ramallah, Qaddoura and his family worked hard to make ends meet.
He started working construction at 14—because at the time Israel had no child-labor laws—and over the years worked in markets and bookstores and pushing carts on the streets.
He saved up $3,000 for an airline ticket to the U.S. before flying across the world with his older brother at 19 years old. The pair landed in Louisiana, where Qaddoura began studying for his bachelor’s and master’s in computer science in 2000.
“I was driven by the goal and the dream of becoming wealthy like Jeff Bezos, to be the good side of Jeff Bezos, not the bad side, and to take care of Mom and Dad so that they never have to work again because they worked extremely hard in their lives,” Qaddoura said.
In the months after 9/11, Qaddoura said he struggled with losing friendships because “within hours” people assumed “all Muslims or all Arabs who came from that region are bad people.”
After meeting and marrying his wife, Samar, in college, Qaddoura faced another difficult milestone as his brother-in-law was shot and killed during a robbery of his family-owned business.
Four years later, in 2005, his oldest daughter, Sajida, now 15, was born three weeks before Hurricane Katrina left them homeless and living with other evacuees in shelters.
Qaddoura said it was difficult for the family to accept meals from strangers. “It takes a toll on your dignity as a human being to rely on the generosity of others,” he said.
“I was extremely impressed by the generosity of strangers and I wanted to be like them—to pay it forward,” Qaddoura said. “Hurricane Katrina was the tipping point in my life. I was being transformed and rewired into a new person who wanted to spend the rest of his life in public service.”