was an afterthought; a 99-cent pocket Constitution that
Khizr Khan bought in bulk, so he could give one to each
of the Army ROTC cadets from the University of Virginia
who came to his home to honor his son, a former cadet
like them who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
of you will be taking an oath soon to defend this
Constitution," Khan told the cadets. "Please
read it as you prepare to defend it … regardless of
little book would become so much more for Khan after he
pulled it from his jacket at the 2016 Democratic
National Convention, held it up and addressed
then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who
had spoken out against immigrants and Muslims.
you even read the United States Constitution?" Khan
famously asked, as his wife, Ghazala, stood stoically
beside him. "I will gladly lend you my copy."
copy is now so iconic that "it has been
retired," Khan said, and donated — by request —
to the Virginia Historical Society.
Khan is traveling the country with a book of his own,
"An American Family," which tells how his life
led him from Pakistan to the stage of the DNC, to cities
all over the country, where he speaks about immigration,
being a Muslim American, a Gold Star father and a
book is not our story; it’s the story of every
immigrant," Khan said recently.
first came into the public eye when he was interviewed
by a reporter about then-candidate Trump’s suggestion
that Muslims be banned from entering the United States.
The story caught the attention of Hillary Clinton’s
campaign, which asked the Khans to speak at the
convention as Muslim immigrants and Gold Star parents.
Their middle son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was
killed by a suicide bomber while stationed in Iraq in
first, Khan and his wife didn’t want to enter the
political fray. But then Khan attended a birthday party
with his grandchildren and heard from parents whose
children were afraid of being thrown out of the country.
were torn," Khan said. "We knew we should
stand up for our son, and these children, but our peace
and safety was a concern."
receiving a letter from four middle-school children,
Khan knew he had to speak.
couple live in Charlottesville, Va., and they were home
Aug. 12 and 13, when white nationalists held a
"Unite the Right" rally there, opposing the
removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Protesters clashed
with counterprotesters, and one woman was killed and 19
were injured when a man rammed his car into the crowd.
The Khans were advised by friends and family to stay
on Aug. 15, they joined children and families who walked
the same path as the protesters.
wanted to show our children that that was not America at
all," Khan said. "That display of hate and
division was not America at all. They could see what the
real America looks like. And that display gave me
pulls optimism from everywhere, starting with his own
story: Born in Pakistan, he made his way to Harvard Law
School and the U.S. national stage. He fathered three
sons and lives in a country where he can say what he
thinks and feels, despite the sadness and frustration he
feels over what comes out of Washington, D.C.
said he draws strength from other events: the 40,000
Bostonians who showed up to protect a white nationalist
"free speech" rally. The female Democratic
candidates who ousted male, Republican candidates in
Virginia — including Danica Roem, the first
transgender person to be elected to a state legislature.
are realizing that remaining quiet and worried is not
the solution," Khan said. "And I remember what
people have said to me, how affectionate people have
been, how concerned people in Toledo and Des Moines have
been. And that come November, we will defend our
gives me hope that this nonsense cannot continue for too
a reading the other night, someone asked him if he could
propose any amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what it
had that one in his pocket: "Make it mandatory for
every American to read the Declaration of Independence.
The Bill of Rights and the Articles of
he offered his favorite quote, from Rumi: "So what
if you are thirsty? Always be a river for
means, ‘So what if I am worried? I must share my
enthusiasms so that we all become hopeful and so that
hope will prevail and unity will prevail.’
am optimistic," he said, "that this is a good