This is me at age seven.
And this is also me.
(Applause and cheering)
To be standing here in Kakuma refugee camp feels so surreal,
and I’m overcome with so much emotion.
These very grounds are where I was born
and spent the first seven years of my life.
I think many people are surprised to hear
that I had a great upbringing here at Kakuma.
But I was happy,
I was smart, I had friends
and above all, I had hope for a brighter future.
That’s not to say that we didn’t have our obstacles.
I mean, boy were there struggles.
I would sometimes get sick with malaria
and didn’t always know where our next meal would come from.
But the sense of community that is here in Kakuma
and the pride that everyone here possesses
is simply unparalleled.
When I was younger, I remember conflicts breaking out.
That tends to happen when people come from different backgrounds
and don’t speak the same language.
Eventually, Swahili --
the main language here --
became our common ground.
I made friends with the kids at the camp
and even started embracing some of their cultures,
celebrating holidays like Christmas even though I was raised Muslim.
The other kids would embrace my culture as well,
sometimes even praying right alongside me.
It was easy, as children, to come together,
blend all of our beliefs
to form our own unique, multicultural environment.
My name is Halima Aden
and I’m a black, Muslim, Somali-American from Kenya.
Some have called me a trailblazer --
I was the first Muslim homecoming queen at my high school,
the first Somali student senator at my college
and the first hijab-wearing woman in many places,
like the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant,
the runways of Milan and New York Fashion Weeks
and even on the historic cover of British "Vogue."
As you can see,
I’m not afraid to be the first, to step out on my own,