The stories of hope and faith in American values of freedom and democracy told by the immigrant father of a fallen Army captain resonated with his audience Wednesday night.
Khizr Khan talked about his memoir, “An American Family,” to a full house at the St. Louis County Library headquarters. The discussion was moderated by Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan.
Khan’s remarks at the Democratic National Convention last year, including a request that then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump read the Constitution, gained him worldwide attention.
On Wednesday night, he again implored the president to read the document.
“Only one year has gone by. It’s not too late,” Khan said. “I invite him to read the Constitution so he begins to respect the Constitution and its values.”
Coincidentally, Trump was also in the region on Wednesday. He visited St. Charles earlier in the day to tout the Republican tax plan.
Before that visit, the president took to Twitter to share a series of anti-Muslim videos, which Khan said was disheartening and concerning.
“This nation is strong because of its unity, because of its graciousness, because of accepting all equally. Therefore, this divisiveness is a sign of defeat,” he said.
Khan had been invited to speak at the Democratic convention to counter comments about immigrants and Muslims that Trump had made on the campaign trail. His son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War.
Khan said he and his wife were urged by some not speak at the convention for fear of harassment. But he said they were compelled to take a stand after receiving a letter signed by middle school students asking if he could make sure a peer wasn’t “thrown out of this country.”
“She is our friend and we love her,” he said the letter read.
A native of Pakistan, Khan said his “love affair” with America started when he was young lawyer who studied the Constitution and learned firsthand of the generosity of Americans while working in Dubai.
Immigrants in the audience familiar with living under authoritarian rule in other countries said Khan’s stories connected with them.
Dorothea Bruschke said she came to the United States in 1957 from Germany.
“I have experienced the same thing: the kindness of Americans,” Bruschke said. “From the first moment you come here, the generosity; the openness; the honesty; the caring.”
Svetlana King was moved by Khan’s remarks, too. She said she came to the United States from Moldova and has been living in St. Louis for 17 years.
“I had the same feeling he had. The first time I met kind people,” King said. “I remember leaving the airport and looking at the flag of the United States and I thought, oh, my goodness, I’m the luckiest person. It really spoke to my heart.”
Khan spoke of the hope he sees and hears around the country.
“Our democracy requires that we must remain vigilant, that we not be sidetracked by the propaganda. Not everything that we read on social media is true or correct as it was displayed today,” he said, referring to the videos tweeted by Trump.
“We need to be aware of the dignities that are enshrined in our documents, in our founding documents, and be ready to protect them,” he said later.
Proceeds from the sale of Khan’s memoir will go to fund scholarships at the University of Virginia, his son’s alma mater.