Leadership in Action: Khizr and Ghazala Khan

While Khizr and Ghazala Khan have risen in the national spotlight in recent months for their principled stand against divisive politics, the family’s notable achievements and contribution to the American fabric of life have long roots in the American Pakistani community.

Hailing from Gujranwala, Khizr and Ghazala moved to Dubai before immigrating to the US.  Mr. Khan earned his LL.M from Harvard Law School in 1986.The Khans became US Citizens the same year. As the family settled into their adopted home,  one of their sons, Humayun, joined the ROTC while attending the University of Virginia. After graduating in 2000, Humayun enlisted in the US Army to serve in Iraq as part of his dedication to protect and serve his fellow countrymen and women.  He eventually rose to the rank of Captain and was known by fellow officers as a talented and friendly member of the armed services.  Tragically, Captain Khan was killed in action in 2004 while protecting his squadron.  For his sacrifice, he posthumously received both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star medal, in recognition for his heroic achievements.

To carry on the memory of Captain Humayun, the Khans continued to support the ROTC program at UVA after his passing. Each year, at the annual commissioning ceremony, Mr. Khan urges graduates to dedicate themselves to protecting the Constitution and provides each individual a pocket version as a keepsake.  To further honor their son, the family presents the Captain Humayun S.M. Khan Award to the most outstanding soldier-scholar each year.

In honor of his legacy, Khizr and Ghazala Khan urge all Americans to exercise the vote as a cornerstone of the democracy that Captain Khan and others sacrificed their lives to protect.  Mrs. Khan states, “In this way, we carry on the torch for Humayan.” Mr. Khan states, “Everyone from students, veterans to Holocaust survivors have reached out to honor my son’s memory.  There has been an enormous outpouring of support from people across the United States for our family, from all walks of life and across the political spectrum.  We hope that every American, regardless of your political affiliation, registers to vote and exercise this fundamental right that others have died to protect.”

The Khan family’s courage, service and sacrifice is a reminder to all of us to honor and protect the democracy, diversity and pluralism of American society.