First-Ever Pakistani-American Gets Presidential Medal Of Freedom

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Khizr Khan. Photo Twitter @realKhizrKhan

President Joe Biden conferred the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on 17 distinguished Americans, including one of Pakistani descent, Khizr Khan, a first for this country.

Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala are a Gold Star family. He is the founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center, was bestowed the medal along with other famous people ranging from actors to IT professionals, civil rights leaders and former members of Congress.  The couple’s son, US Army Capt Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 trying to defend his team from a car bomb attack in Iraq, and was awarded the Bronze Medal for his bravery

Khan, the White House noted, is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

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Early during the ceremony, President Biden spoke a few words on each of the recipients. Speaking about Khan, he recalled that when he was the Vice President during the Obama years, he had held a Diwali celebration to which he invited the Khan family. He remarked that though it was a Hindu festival, the Khans attended, and that was a symbol of what America meant.

Khan studied the U.S. Constitution as a law student in Pakistan, and inspired by it, he emigrated to America with his family, the President said. The President recalled how in late November 2016, “I invited the Khans to the vice president’s residence, Naval Observatory, for a Diwali reception. An Irish Catholic vice president and Muslim Goldstar families at the reception for Diwali, a Hindu holiday. That can be very serious,” the President remarked. But, “That’s the American we know. That’s America, he and I and most of you I pray God, believe in.”

Having lost his own grown son President Biden said, the two families were united by the pain “of losing a piece of our souls and finding the purpose to live a life worthy of them.” Now the Medal of Freedom will rest next to his son’s bronze star Purple Heart, the President said, “And Khizir Khan you will continue to carry a copy of the Constitution and I didn’t ask you,  but I imagine it’s still in your pocket. As a reminder of the charge that has to be kept,” the President concluded.

Khan gained national attention during the 2016 Democratic Convention when he took out the booklet of the Constitution of the United States and held it up, questioning if then Presidential candidate Donald Trump had ever read the document and knew what was in it.

Khan sat on the podium in the East Room of the White House where the ceremony was conducted, along with other recipients like former Congresswoman Gaby Giffords, the victim of gun violence; Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast and Olympic Gold medalist; Steve Jobs of Apple Inc., whose wife received the medal posthumously; Late Senator John McCain whose wife was present to receive the decoration; Late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka whose son collected the medal. Actor Denzel Washington could not be present as he had tested positive for COVID.

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