Khizr Khan stood before thousands last July at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), telling the story of his son’s death and criticising Donald Trump. Khizr Khan stood tall as Donald Trump fired attacks against his family. On Thursday night, Khizr Khan stood on the Harris Hall stage in front of Northwestern students.
“I have no doubt,” he said. “I stand before the future of this world, of mankind.”
Khizr Khan was the father of Captain Humayun Khan, a soldier in the Iraq War who died from a car bombing in 2004. He and his wife, Ghazala Khan, both Muslim Americans, spoke at this year’s DNC. He came to Northwestern Thursday as a part of Discover Islam Week, a week of speakers organized by the Muslim Cultural Students Association.
Khan spent part of his speech detailing the story of his son’s death. To save the lives of his fellow soldiers, Khan said, Captain Khan took steps forward to block a suicide bomber driving towards the army’s camp. He saved the lives of his peers at the cost of his own and was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
“What made him take those ten steps?” Khan asked. “It wasn't for glory. It was for care of others.”
His son’s compassion inspired Khan and his wife to appear at the DNC. Initially their friends tried to dissuade them from speaking, saying political opponents would target them. But, as the couple sat in a room surrounded by the pictures and belongings of Captain Khan, Khan asked his wife what their son would have done.
“She says, ‘He will stand for others. This is our time to stand up,’” Khan said.
Jack O’Dea, a Communications freshman in the audience, was at the DNC for Khan’s speech, and recalled it being, “one of those times when everyone came together.”
Khan’s speech became a talking point of the election after Trump said about Khan’s wife, who stood silently by Khan’s side, “maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.”
In spite of Trump’s comments, Khan emphasized the importance of respect. He told the story of being approached by a Breitbart reporter – Breitbart has been described by its former chairman and current White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon as, “the platform for the alt-right.” The reporter was surprised Khan agreed to talk to him.
“I told him, ‘you and I, regardless of our political opinion, have equal dignity,’” he said. “I could have walked away but I showed him there's no malice in my heart.”
SESP freshman Khaqan Ahmad was inspired by Khan’s speech.
“The positive feelings he got from the people around him overpowered any force that tried to reduce him. He took power from the fact that people were protesting and the loud majority that did support him,” Ahmad said. “There are people around me who do support me and do make me feel welcome and I can draw from that.”
Overall, Khan’s speech aimed to move the audience to action.
“Your country needs you,” Khan said. “Sometimes we choose our place, but sometimes history chooses us to be where we are.”