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Wheaton Alumnus Gabe Amo Elected as Rhode Island Congressman

Last November, a Wheaton alumnus was elected to Congress, and his name is Gabriel Amo. When longtime Congressman David Ciciline announced he would be stepping down from his position representing Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional district, there was a great deal of speculation as to who would jump into the race to replace him. Many names were mentioned, and most were familiar to those who follow Rhode Island politics. Gabe Amo was not one of those names. His authenticity and his government experience, however, helped him overcome his early lack of name recognition and won him the Democratic primary. He then cruised to a thirty point general election victory.

Born and raised in Pawtucket, Congressman Amo is the son of Libyan and Ghanaian immigrants. He grew up in a working class family. His mother is a nurse and his father owns a liquor store. He graduated from the Moses Brown School in Providence where he demonstrated an interest in politics. Amo took this interest with him to Wheaton, where he majored in political science and also took related courses in everything from philosophy to public speaking. 

About his time at Wheaton Amo said, “It was formative in the sense that it gave me the opportunity to gain both academic depth in the interests that I’ve had for a long time and experiential learning.” Experiential learning is an important part of Wheaton’s curriculum, and Amo is similarly enthusiastic about its merits. “Get your hands dirty. Don’t just leave it to the books. Focus on having very intentional experiences that help you gain some depth.” Amo himself did a great deal of experiential learning during his time at Wheaton. He was President of the Student Government Association, President of Wheaton’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, and he volunteered on several political campaigns.

In terms of learning inside the classroom, Amo stressed the importance of learning basics. “You have to be able to communicate verbally and in writing,” he said, “You have to be able to make evidence based arguments and have the capacity to research and discern information. The specific classes you take are secondary.” This, however, is not to take the place of following passions and interests. In fact, Amo believes that these elements can be key to one’s success. He said, “If you have areas of interest you want to unlock, chase them. The people that I see go the furthest have a motivation and they are focused not merely on becoming experts, but they demonstrate they can go deeper.”

Today, Amo uses the skills he learned at Wheaton and in his experiences beyond to try to effect change in one of the most ineffective congresses in American history. He does this also as one of the newest and most junior members of the House. He does not, however, let this discourage him. He is jumping right into work, building each day using the tools he learned right here. Tools you also have the opportunity to use. Will they take you to Congress too?