Fadwa Hammoud has been in the public service world for several years now. Immigrating to the United States from Lebanon at age 11, Hammoud lived in Dearborn, Michigan, known for its large Muslim population.
Hammoud has served as the leading prosecuting attorney for Wayne County and on the Dearborn School Board. In 2019, Hammoud was sworn in as the Solicitor General of Michigan and handled the Flint water crisis, and in 2021, argued the Brown v. Davenport case before the Supreme Court.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with Ms. Hammoud to ask her a few questions about her work.
Muslim Girl: Tell us about your background — like a little about yourself.
Fadwa Hammoud: Like so many Americans, the immigrant journey is fundamental to my story. In the late 90s, my family decided to leave Lebanon, our war-torn homeland. Unlike many families, my family was granted an opportunity, and we left in pursuit of a better future for my brother and me.
A better future meant better education, and since my parents, like most Americans, couldn’t afford private education, public education was the experience that most shaped my civic consciousness and worldview. I attended Dearborn Public Schools, Henry Ford Community College, and became a first-generation college graduate at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where I studied political science. I went on to earn a JD from Wayne State Law School in Detroit.
Now those same public schools nurture my two children, and my husband and I have chosen to build a family and a future in Dearborn, MI — the first American city we ever called home.
Having grown up in an immigrant enclave, I had a window into the formation of citizenship and how meaningful and important the honorific of “citizen” is to other Arab Muslims like myself.
Muslim Girl: What has it been like to be the first Muslim Solicitor General in the United States?
Fadwa Hammoud: It’s been an incredible privilege to serve the people of the state of Michigan and to advocate on behalf of our communities. I’m fortunate that my faith gave me a foundation of empathy and service to others to stand on in this work. Being the first to do anything is special because of the possibility that a broken barrier represents.
But by far the most important part of my job is honoring my oath of office and representing our state with integrity. I strive to give this work my absolute best, and I hope we can collectively transcend representation and democratize public service as a calling.
Muslim Girl: What has been the most challenging thing in your job so far?
Fadwa Hammoud: The Solicitor General is the state’s top appellate lawyer and represents the state in the highest courts. This means I’m often overseeing complex cases that touch every aspect of public life, with consequences reverberating across generations. These stakes demand an unflinching commitment to the process and a thorough accounting of the law, past, and present.
Knowing that a single decision can mean clean air and water for a community, or that a child has a right to literacy, these issues keep me up at night because there are real people whose lives will be impacted by the outcome.
Muslim Girl: Why did you decide to pursue higher law?
Fadwa Hammoud: I grew up just a stone’s throw away from a city that changed the world and indelibly shaped our culture and economy. But under the weight of legal discrimination and decades of disinvestment, Detroit today has the highest concentration of poverty in the U.S. and a yawning opportunity gap with its neighboring communities.
From a young age, I knew that one street could be the difference between attending a well-funded school or not, that a person’s zip code — not their ambition or work ethic — exerted undue force on their life outcomes. Just as the law had enforced this unjust hierarchy of human value, I wanted to use the law as an instrument to help others and pursue a more just society.
At the same time, coming of age after the September 11th attacks, I felt that many in our country viewed Muslim Americans as provisional citizens, and questioned our fidelity to the constitution and to the notion of just being an American. I wanted not only to challenge that dangerous myth but also to dedicate my career to serving my country, even those who did not then view people like me as compatriots.
Muslim Girl: What has been the most rewarding part of your career?
Fadwa Hammoud: I’ve enjoyed working with people who make public service more inclusive every day, opening doors to those who’ve been historically left out. Attorney General Nessel has built an AG’s office that draws on the diversity and dynamism of all of our communities.
Public institutions work best when they are informed by people’s lived experiences, and I am proud to be part of a team that looks like the state we serve. It’s been rewarding to be in a position to give back and to try to improve people’s lives.
Muslim Girl: What do you think about the importance of representation in all types of legislative/judicial positions?
Fadwa Hammoud: Our institutions should reflect the people they serve. But holding an office in itself is not an achievement, and representation alone cannot be the ultimate goal.
The goal is not to fill a quota, but rather to harness the full potential of our society to address the challenges that impact us all. When some perspectives are privileged over others, we create blind spots that stifle our collective progress.
Muslim Girl: What do you want people to take away from your work?
Fadwa Hammoud: Above all, that I carried out my responsibilities with integrity. And also that I approached decisions with the widest possible perspective of who might be impacted, and that I took great pains to ensure no one — no matter their background or zip code — was left out of that calculus. I don’t view public service as just a job, but a passion and a calling worthy of a lifetime of effort.