A grieving father makes the case for inclusion

By Ellen McGirt
July 29, 2016

No matter how you feel about Hillary Clinton, having a woman accept, for the first time, a major U.S. party’s nomination for the presidency was an extraordinary thing.

She delivered her acceptance speech after a roster of music, emotional endorsements and tributes, including a touching introduction by her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

But in the march to the main event, one short set of remarks stood out. They were delivered by grieving father Khizar Khan, who stood with his wife Ghazala, and made sure Donald Trump understood the true case for diversity.

“Tonight, we are honored to stand here as the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, and as patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy – that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.”

Their son, Army Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, was killed June 8, 2004, by a suicide bomber while fighting in Iraq. Captain Khan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was an ordnance officer, and so much more.

I took a moment to read the official record of his death, service and interment at Arlington Cemetery. I’m glad I did. It offered a moving tribute from a grateful nation, but also clues to the spirit of inclusion that Captain Khan was able to cultivate within his command.

“The Muslim chaplain who led the Nimaz-e-Janaza after the military honors, specifically highlighted the ethnically-diverse group that had come to pay its respects to Captain Khan. He was one amongst the growing number of Pakistani Americans in the U.S. Army.”

The official record also includes a republished story from The Washington Post, A Peacemaker is Laid to Rest.There were more details of his service, including his work training Iraqis for security jobs, and specifically, the care he took of his charges in his final moments.

“When an orange-colored taxi drove toward them, Khan ordered his soldier to “hit the dirt,” said his father, who received details of his son’s death from his commanding officer.

“‘Where did his strength come from to face such a danger instead of hiding behind a pole or booth or something?'” his father said.”

I’d like to believe it was a similar strength that propelled Mr. Khan to stand at a podium on national television, pull a copy of the Constitution out of his pocket and tell a candidate who purports to believe the worst of his Muslim family, that he wasn’t afraid either.

Said Mr. Khan:

“Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the US constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words liberty and equal protection of law.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Sometimes inclusion needs a strong defense.

 

Programming note: I’ll be on vacation next week, and my wonderful colleague Jeremy Quittner will be filling in. He’s got great things planned. Please keep those tips and suggestions coming in to raceAhead@newsletters.fortune.com


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