Remarks After Taking the Oath of Office


Remarks as prepared

Wow, Commissioner Irene Fernando’s in the house. Aaaay, that sounds good, right?!

Well, it was exactly 700 days ago when I sat somewhere in the back, and attended my very first County Commission meeting. So to stand before you as Commissioner Fernando… it’s surreal and powerful and humbling.

As I reflect on the title of Commissioner, I’m in awe at the weight of it. There’s a gravity to the responsibility it holds, and directly embedded in the title, is a promise I’ve made to each of you.

I feel a special pull inside every time I hear Commissioner in front of my name, because I grew up my whole life with titles... using them, respecting them, working very hard to live up to them.

My very first title was granted to me at a young age, and it’s pronounced: Ate. In Filipino culture, we place prefixes in front of names for anyone who’s older than us, as a sign of respect. The title used for an older sibling or cousin who’s a girl, is Ate.

I have two sisters, one older, one younger—so my earliest memories were learning about this title. My older sister is my Ate Lorraine. I was taught to listen to her and to take her guidance. To my younger sister, Jamie, I am her Ate Irene. I was taught to care for her and to push her.

These titles are with us forever, we don’t age-out of them. We say them out loud in front of each other’s names, as a reminder of the responsibilities and privileges that come with it.

It is this deep sense of responsibility that I carry into my newest title, as Commissioner Fernando.

I ran to advocate for those who are marginalized or structurally disenfranchised. I ran to partner across all layers of government to advance our most complex issues. And I ran to expand who sees themselves in the story of leadership and politics.

So every single time I hear Commissioner Fernando, I’ll be reminded of each of these promises. Because out of the 1.2 million people who live in Hennepin County, only 7 people get to have this job, just 7 of us have the privilege of serving in this role.

And I am here to work. I believe each of us is here to work, to help shape a future we are proud to pass onto future generations.

Because it is not enough for us to dream about the world we wish to create. We must also ask ourselves, “What are we willing to give up, in order to create that world? What are we willing to do, risk, challenge, invent?”

Today I am full of gratitude. Thank you for being here and for believing in the vision we created together. I am here because of you. I am leading with you and for you. I am humbled by your support, and I promise to work very hard every single day to make sure our stories have a seat at this decision-making table.

I proudly stand before you as Commissioner Irene Fernando, but you can call me Commish. Thank you!

Akhilesh Menawat