Jewish Journal

First Mormon president to speak at Claremont—and his name’s not Mitt

by Mark Paredes

March 4, 2012 | 11:09 pm

Mayor Niankoro Yeah Samake. Photo by Wikipedia/Maris783

Jews and Mormons who want to meet a future Mormon head of state should head to Claremont Graduate University this Wednesday. There they will hear a handsome presidential candidate with a master’s degree and picture-perfect family articulate his vision for the future. His name? Yeah Samaké, the front-runner in next month’s Malian elections.

Yeah has a rags-to-riches story that would put any American politician to shame. One of 17 children born to a family in the village of Ouéléssébougou, he was encouraged by his parents to get an education and make something of himself. He became a volunteer teacher and Peace Corps interpreter, and was eventually invited to continue his education at Brigham Young University. He completed an M.A. in Public Policy and married Marissa, an Indian who was born and raised in Bahrain. They and their children lived in Utah for a few years, then moved to Mali, where Yeah became mayor of Ouéléssébougou. Here are several articles on Yeah with more career highlights of this remarkable man:

Malian presidential candidate Yeah Samake to visit Claremont Graduate University on March 7

The Other Mormon Candidate

Niankoro Yeah Samake

Needless to say, unlike with Mitt Romney, all Mormons can unite around Yeah’s candidacy (though I’m pretty sure that the LDS Church will not endorse a candidate in the Malian elections). He’s the personification of the phenomenal growth of Mormonism in Africa, the church’s fastest-growing region. Moreover, he’s a proud Mormon who speaks often and openly about his faith. This openness is all the more remarkable given that he and his wife are the only Mormons in the 90% Muslim country.

Yeah is so committed to transparency and to fighting corruption in Mali that he has refused to raise money there, since there would be many favors expected in return for financial support. Instead, he raises money abroad. I don’t have a lot of money to give him, but I can what I can do is promote his upcoming speech, which is sponsored by Claremont’s Mormon Studies program. Here’s the 411:

Wednesday, March 7
7:00 p.m.
Albrecht Auditorium (Stauffer Hall of Learning)
925 N. Dartmouth Ave, Claremont 91711

Yasher koach, Yeah. 

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Mark Paredes is a former Mormon bishop currently living in Los Angeles. He has worked for the ZOA, the American Jewish Congress, and the Consulate General of Israel in Los...

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