Khizr Khan receiving nation’s highest civilian honor

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 10:20 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - An immigrant from Pakistan, now settled in Charlottesville, has spent years of his life advocating for the fundamental values of the United States Constitution.

Khizr Khan is being honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the nation’s highest civilian honor - Thursday, July 7.

“I was second-year law student when I read the Declaration of Independence,” Khan said.

He says he was so inspired by America’s foundational values that he came to the U.S. for a new beginning.

“I know how it is to be living in a country where you do not have the rights, only authoritarians have all the rights,” Khan said. “We must come together on the fundamental values of our country, which is democracy, rule of law, human dignity, diversity, because with diversity we make our country stronger and move forward.”

Khan’s advocacy received national attention after the loss of his son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

“He was made into a patriot right here because of the values of service: Service to the country, service to others, service to humanity,” Khan said.

Capt. Khan lost his life to a suicide bomber.

“Instead of himself hitting the dirt he stood up taller, and he walked towards the oncoming car with his hand extended, about 10 steps trying to stop the car, which caused the terrorists to detonate prematurely. And that day, only one American patriot died,” Khan said. “His sacrifice is not on behalf of just one individual. His sacrifice is a reminder that our freedoms require vigilance.”

Khan’s loss is what connected him to then-Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, Pres. Biden is recognizing Khan’s work with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. When he received the call about the honor, Khan says only one thought came to mind.

“All of our belief in this country of equal dignity, of diversity, uplifting human beings came through. Only here it can happen. Nowhere else in the world this can happen that an ordinary citizen, an immigrant, a first-generation immigrant, would be uplifted with a humble beginning, would be uplifted to this highest recognition of this nation,” Khan said.

From a dorm room in Pakistan to the White House in Washington D.C., and the highest civilian honor America has to bestow.

“That passion that I have for the U.S Constitution, for it’s foundational values of equal dignity, for religious freedom, for freedom of press, for freedom to speak, all basic human dignities that are enshrined in our constitution, maybe it is in recognition of me being a person who speaks of these values so frequently,” Khan said.

Khan says this medal goes beyond just his work.

“I received this on behalf of all immigrants, recent and long ago, that came to the shores of this blessed nation and made it stronger, made it better. And I am grateful. I am humbled beyond words,” Khan said.

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