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From Braille to Yale

"Show Us The Money," Cyrus Habib ’09JD once demanded. He meant it literally: "I rely on the generosity of cab drivers, baristas and store clerks each time I make a purchase with cash," wrote Habib, who has been blind since age 8, in a Washington Post op-ed arguing that US currency should be distinguishable by touch.

Six years later, Habib has yet to win that battle. But he has forged ahead on other fronts: graduating from Yale Law School, going to work for the Seattle-area law firm of Perkins Coie, and now taking office as Washington State's first blind legislator in a half-century and, apparently, the first Iranian American elected to state office anywhere in this country.

The son of immigrants, Habib grew up outside Seattle and lost his eyesight to childhood cancer. Before Yale, he went to Columbia University, then to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. Along the way, he volunteered or interned for politicans such as Gary Locke ’72 (then running for Washington governor; now US ambassador to China) and then-US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton ’73JD. 

As a freshman representative, Habib is vice chair of his state's House Committee on Technology and Economic Development—testament to his work at Perkins Coie, where he combines the backgrounds of his lawyer mother and engineer father by advising tech startups. The 31-year-old Democrat talks about his personal experience with "the profound role that the state can play in creating opportunities for its residents. Were it not for our public school system," he says, "I would never have been able to go from Braille to Yale."

He's also showing the money in a way more typically associated with Yalies: Habib's campaign last year raised roughly $340,000, topping his own goal and the totals of all other Washington State House candidates.

Filed under Cyrus Habib, Yale Law School, disability
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