Khizr Khan urges students to stand together, uphold dignity during Trump presidency


Claire Pak/The Daily Northwestern

Khizr Khan speaks in front of Northwestern students. Khan was a part of a speaker series held by the Muslim-cultural Students Association for Discover Islam Week 2017.

Catherine Kim, Reporter

Khizr Khan, the Pakistani-American known for his 2016 Democratic National Convention speech, urged Northwestern students to uphold American values with pride at a talk organized by the Muslim-cultural Students Association on Thursday.

Khan, the father of a soldier killed in the Iraq War, criticized then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at the DNC. He told students at Harris Hall that he carries a pocket Constitution in his coat pocket and read from the 14th Amendment during the talk held as part of Discover Islam Week.

He opened by quoting philosopher Richard Rorty’s 1998 book “Achieving Our Country,” which he said largely predicted Trump’s election and presidency.

“The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for,” Khan read from the book.

He said the current administration’s “lack of a moral compass” is alarming because a nation without a moral compass has no direction. It is important for people to not be discouraged by the political climate and should uphold the American value of dignity, he said.

“This country is made up of all people from different backgrounds. (This) pluralism means that in whole we are all different but all together as one nation,” he told The Daily.

Khan said he continues to give speeches, including his DNC speech, as a means of both upholding these values and spreading messages of encouragement to communities that are hurting.

He said when asked to speak at the DNC, he and his wife, who joined him stage, took two days to decide whether to accept the invitation. But ultimately, they decided it was what their son — Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in 2004 while serving in the Iraq War — would have done.

He said they wanted to stand up for their son — who had died protecting his country — and for other children and Americans who had been hurt by hateful rhetoric targeting them in their own country.

“Somebody had to speak on behalf of hurting children” Khan said. “That is what made us (speak) so loudly. That is what continues to move me forward.”

Khan encouraged students to support those around them through “simple gestures,” whether through short words of affirmation or by speaking up for others.

Weinberg senior Jackson Walker attended the event and told The Daily that a small gesture students can make is to participate in events that support other communities. Though it may be difficult to voice one’s opinion publicly, it is necessary to stand with others, he said.

Weinberg senior Becca Sanchez also attended and told The Daily that students can start following Khan’s advice by simply listening to others perspectives

“Real progress and change can be made when we finally decide to stop talking for a moment and listen to what other people have to say,” she said. “Otherwise there’s no compassion. There’s no understanding; there’s no learning; there’s no teaching.”

Khan closed by again emphasizing the importance of liberty and dignity, especially in context of his identity as a Muslim American.

“America has been in many dark places before,” he said. “But this is our time to uplift.”

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