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tv   Overheard With Evan Smith  PBS  April 18, 2018 12:30am-1:01am PDT

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- [female speaker] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy and by claire and carl stuart. and by claire and carl stuart. - i'm evan smith. he's a harvard educated attorney whose status as a gold star father was both celebrated and politicized in the 2016 presidential campaign. his new book is an american family: a memoir of hope and sacrifice. he is khizr khan. this is overheard. (upbeat music) - let's be honest. is this about the ability to learn or is this about the experience of not having been taught properly? (mumbled snippets of interviews)
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mr. khan, an honor to meet you. - thank you. - and thank you very much for being here, sir. - thank you. i am honored to be here. - i believe this book is extraordinary in many ways but maybe the most extraordinary way is it is the most patriotic book i've ever read. i walk away from reading this book with a sense of hope and optimism about america and a feeling of great patriotism. i don't know if that's what you intended. did you intend that? - this really is a story of all immigrants, all of us are immigrants. - [evan] well, we're all from some place, right? - this is our story. this is the story of this blessed nation and blessed country. that was not the intention. the intention was to humbly and gratefully share our story and i underline and underscore the word gratefully. - right. - we are the most grateful family and i am most grateful citizen of this nation. - but you acknowledge that your story has become
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a universal story. people see in your story, their story. they see in yourselves, themselves. - i am honored if that is the case. - right. - the purpose was to show my gratitude and tell the reason why i am so grateful, i am so proud to be member of this country and member of this nation. - well as you point out in the book, a wonderful line from the book of many is that you are patriotic not because you were born in america. you're patriotic because you were not born in america. - yes. - right? it is your status as an immigrant that has made you so grateful and so patriotic. - and that is what the story is but to the sentiment behind that statement is that i have lived twice under marshal law when i was middle school student, when i was law student in pakistan. twice under marshal law. i could not could come out of my home without
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the permission of the government. - [evan] right. - the very first thing these authoritarian-minded leaders, the dictators, the marshal law administrators, the oligarchs, the dear leaders, they do not like the free press. - right. - they shut down the press. press is no good. they have no role to play in our well-being. second thing they do is they do not like rule of law. they are against the judges, all judges or so-called judges. i grew up in that environment. i saw members of the press being shot, being arrested. newspapers shut down for months and months. so coming from that background, that moment, and i explain that in this book in great detail when i became the citizen. - right.
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- for me that moment remains so sacred when i became citizen of this country. - right. - i paused outside the door of the courtroom where i had to go and take the oath of citizenship and i deliberately, i am a law educated person, i deliberately paused to fully realize what is about to happen. - yep, in the moment. - in the moment. what i did not have twice in my life, no dignity at all as a human being, i was at the mercy of the dear leader, the dictator, the corrupt exploiter of the people, what was about to happen. so i entered the courtroom. there are so many other soon to become citizens taking oath when i took the oath of citizenship, raised my hand and i took the oath.
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and then i was given a green certificate and it said on the top of the certificate, "certificate of naturalization and citizenship." to my eyes, and that's the story in this book, to my eyes, that was not the certificate of citizenship. that was the certificate of human dignity. - right. - now i have the dignities that i never had. - yeah. - it is that story that we try to tell in this book. - and that story and those that surround it are so moving and obviously you know, you have told this story many times. it never fails to move you i'm sure and it doesn't fail to move me or anybody else who hears it because at the end of the day, your belief that your life would be better in this country is what the immigrant experience - of course. - is about. and we've made the immigrant experience into something or somethings else when in it's most basic level
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it's about making your life better and so i'm thrilled to hear you talk about that. so people know your story since this book is your story and we heard about your extraordinary son, who we'll talk about in a second, at the democratic convention last year, but we did not know so much about you and your family until this story was told in full. you were born in rural pakistan. you spent your years growing up there. you came to this country in 1980. - correct. - is that right? 30 years old and you came intending to go to school. - yes. - you'd gone to college. you'd gotten a law degree. you'd done most of your schooling back home. - [khizr] correct. - but you came to this country quite surprised to have been accepted to harvard university, to their master of laws program, right? - yes. - and you came actually to houston, texas, not to cambridge, massachusetts, why? - well, i tell you, my first employment,
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my first meeting with america took place in dubai. - in dubai. you actually came to this country from dubai. - through dubai. - right, yeah. - my first employment was with an oil company, an american oil company. - right. - and my first boss was a texan from texas. (audience laughs) - that's usually how it works. (audience laughs) - so i had gone into dubai on friday night to get acquainted with where my work will be, where i will be reporting to work on monday morning. so i wanted to go to a hotel and rent a room there and i was told that in dubai then, there were no rooms available. there were only few hotels and those were all sold out. and i couldn't afford more expensive hotels so i rented a room from a cab driver so that i could
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spend these two night up until monday and then i'll look for place to live. that room was nothing than just four walls and a floor and a door to it. i did not have any bed so my suitcase was my pillow and my towel was my bed sheet and i had slept two days. anyway, showed up at work on monday. i am meeting america first time now. i showed up to work. allen is explaining. i'm shortening the story. but we tell in great detail in the book. - [evan] yes. - allen is telling me this work need to be done. we are hiring so many people and the operation will start in a couple of months and you will be responsible for this and this and then after five minutes of explaining he looks at me and he said, "khizr, you look really tired. "where you been sleeping?"
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he could tell. i told him that i had rented a room. i had been sleeping there and i will find a better place. so, he picks up the phone and he makes a phone call. half an hour later, a lady walks in and she introduces herself. "i am lisa. "i am allen's wife. "let's go." i said, "where are we going?" she said, "let's go home." and i was so embarrassed at that moment i could not tell them where i had been sleeping, where my home is. i said, "why do we have to do there?" they said, "no, no, no, let's go. "come with us." so i followed them, got in lisa's car, and she drove. company has rented many apartments in the city for the experts when they were coming initially instead of putting them in hotel
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they were putting them in these apartments. so, they take me to an apartment, they open the door, we walk in and she said, "this is your bedroom." - they took care of you. - i had never seen three pillows on the bed before. (audience laughs) - is that right? it's pretty good, huh? - i just couldn't compose myself and then she says, "this is the bathroom." never seen so many towels in the bathroom. then she points towards the kitchen. it was a one bedroom apartment and there were pots and pans and spoons and the tea kettle on the stove and then she opens the door of the refrigerator and she says, "there's bread and butter and jam "and all that." and then allen says to me, this is first time i am meeting america, that is why i am so grateful, so humble,
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so passionate about this nation, my nation and this country, the country of generous people. he said, "rest. we'll start the work tomorrow." - that's great. - and they left. closed the door. i was so humbled because of that generosity. they did not owe me anything at all except a paycheck at the end of the month. that generosity and then that continued throughout our stay there. they became ghazala's parents. when she came to join me after marriage, they told me not to go to the airport because somehow they found out that it is our tradition that parents go to receive the bride, not the groom. - so they went. - they told me not to go. - isn't that great? - they went. why wouldn't i be grateful? - yeah, right. - that had been the lives story. that is how i have seen america
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and that is how i continue to see america, generosity, kindness, goodness, pure-heartedness. - well this explains so much that we didn't know before, right? - sure. - you arrived at the podium at the convention and for most of us, this was the first time we had encountered you. - sure. the first time that we knew any aspects of your story. this makes sense. this helps us understand better. so you came to america. you went to harvard. your family joined you. in silver spring, maryland is where your kids grew up. it's just a great american story and again, the story is told in extraordinary detail in here. we learned about you as i said, mr. khan, at that convention. and we learned about you and your wife and we learned about your extraordinarily brave son who was lost in 2004 in iraq. we learned about his death. i want you to tell us about his life, right? we know about him in the context of the tragic end to his life.
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but tell us about his life. tell us about what he was like, who he was. - well, recently after all of this noise, political noise, people are approaching us and telling us how they had known captain humayun kahn. when he was a student at university of virginia, undergrad student, they used to study late in the library. - yep. - and dormitory rooms were at distance and there were roads to walk. men and women used to study late and then they would walk. all women of his dormitory came to humayun when was study. he would be sitting at the library and would ask him can you walk us to the dormitory? and every night he would leave his books there,
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he would walk them home. - get up and walk them home. - and then come back and continue to study. that is how we have known him. at his burial, a young man, a 10 year old young boy, saluted him last after the burial. and we became curious that who this child is that was so well-dressed and so we approached. after the burial we approached his parents and said, "could you introduce us who this is?" they said, "oh, this is humayun's friend." before humayun was deployed, he joined the army. prior to then at the dormitory where he lived at, hillfort dormitory, captain humayun kahn used to tutor him. "whenever he would have a lesson, "instead of coming to us, he would go to humayun
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"and do his homework and humayun not only helped him "do his homework but take him for a bike ride "or take him for jogging and they became "really good friends." humayun became his mentor. - you had no idea. - we had no idea. - right. - so humayun passes and they get the news that this has happened and this boy asked his parents, now his parents are telling us that. "he asked us when is his funeral. "i want to go to the funeral." and they said, "sure, we'll take you. "his funeral is on 15th of june "and we will go to arlington cemetery. "that's were the funeral is." he said, "we will go." he said, "no, i don't want to go like this." parents said, "what do you mean you don't want to go
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"like this?" he said, "take me to a clothing store. "i want to buy a black suit. "want to buy a black tie and a buttoned shirt." - yeah. - "i want to be most respectful to my mentor." 10 year old boy. - 10 year old boy. - what he meant to him. so we were blessed to have him for 27 years in our life, the goodness of his character, the goodness that he was gifted by our creator given to him. that light continues to light other lives. these two books that we have written, all of the proceeds of these books are allocated to a scholarship that we have set up. - that you set up at the university of virginia. - and the first scholarship had been awarded. we received a card from the person who received the first scholarship. - right. - this is what, and it's on need base in perpetuity.
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this is what, among other sentiments, this is student who received the first scholarship just a week ago, he expresses this, "thank you for making "university education possible for me." - right, well you are making it possible. - it is out of the goodness -- - but i also wanna observe, mr. khan that the story of your son ends up being an inspiration for people, not just this 10 year old who came and so, it's a remarkable story, saluted him, but other people who heard the story last summer and people who will read these books will take away from it who your son, this is why i wanted to focus on his life for a moment, who he was, his character, and candidly, you and mrs. khan have a lot to do with who he was as all parents do, in putting out the right guard rails for him or guideposts for him to become the person he was. - he was replica of mrs. khan. - he was? - he was.
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- always be good to the mom. i'm right there with ya. - kindness, care, care for others, even to your own peril, care for others, this wall all from ghazala and we were blessed to have him for 27 years and we're honored that we became his parents. - how did your speaking at the convention happen? i mean i know, of course i know the story in some respects. i also know that you were somewhat ambivalent about doing this. - true. - right. and of course no one knew that it would become the moment that it did. no one knew. talk a little bit about that. - well, when that bigotry statement was made that we will throw out all muslims. muslims will be banned and throw out all hispanics, the newspaper writer, john king, contacted me from new york. he's a digital reporter and asked my sentiments
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after hearing that bigotry statement. - right. - so i shared with him my thoughts -- - because the story of captain khan and of your family's sacrifice, was known at this point. - through washington post -- - right. - washington post was publish -- - it was a documentary. - correct. so we were in the system expressing our gratitude and the story of captain humayun khan's serving so many lives even to his own peril but anyways, so that article was published, that article was picked up by dnc and they had done the democratic national convention, national committee, they had picked up that article because they had decided to invite many other will-to-start families. so if you see the convention on monday night, there are a couple of goal-to-start families, on tuesday night on register night.
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so they had decided that we will invite goal-to-start families and we will pay tribute to our heroes. they picked up that article and decided that humayun will be one of them. they contacted us that we are paying tribute to captain humayun khan and i agreed to that. they prepared the tribute. they shared with us and we said this is fine. that is the tribute that is played at the democratic national convention. two days after that, i receive a call that we are inviting other goal-to-start families, would you like to come and speak? we always had been private people. we have never participated in politics before to that extent and something cautioned me to take some time and think about this. - and you're not a particularly political person as far as it goes, right? - not at all. not at all. - although you'd voted in some elections as a democrat or for democratic candidates, you also were admiring
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of ronald reagan. - i had been (mumbles) for that speech. when he made his final farewell speech, when he gets to the point where he says that, "i see of america as a shinning city on hill "that has walls. "but that wall has doors where anyone with "heart and courage can enter." it is that. so i had admired reagan for that spirit, the true spirit of america. anyway, so that invitation came so i said, "can i think for a day or two? "may i contact you?" so i took the number from them and they said, "okay, you have two days. "let us know. "we will be finalizing the schedule." so i called immediately our other two sons and they told us please do not go. decline this. this is not your cup of tea. you are not that kind of person. your reputation will be maligned, your integrity will be questioned,
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your peace will be disturbed so do not go. so we thought they were being over protective so we contacted a couple of other people that were a little more savvy in that so called them and they told us exactly same thing that do not go, this not your cup of tea, do not go. so for two days, ghazala and i sat in the room where captain humayun khan's portrait hangs and his books and his other things are there, just thinking what should we do? should we go or should we decline? and ghazala had been my guide in making that decision. she would always say that, "let's think, "what would humayun do?" and so we think that yes, we should call. and then the advice of our other friends and relatives would come to mind, do not go. so we were torn between yes or no
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and then i go to check the mail. this is that small card that sent us to the dnc convention. i go to check the mail. there is a white card in the mailbox without a stamp so somebody must have driven to the mailbox and left it in there. out of curiosity i opened that card and four students, their names and their middle school name and this book is dedicated -- - this is the other book that you have now written. - this is the second book. - this is our constitution. it is for children. - for children. for middle school children. so the name of this school and this is the sentence that sent us - to the convention. - to the convention. the sentence says, "mr. and mrs. khan, "would you make sure that maria is not thrown "out of this country? "we love her.
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"she's our friend." i read that sentence twice standing there. is there a message in there for us? i took that card to ghazala. she looked at it. her eyes welled. she looked at me and she said, "call them." - we need to go. - "tell them we will go." - the copy of the constitution, we have about a minute left here. the copy of the constitution that you brought with you was one that you carry with you or carried with you at all times. do you still carry it? - yeah. - do you have it? - i have it. - you brought yours. i brought mine. (audience applause and cheers) it is the most famous copy of the constitution other than the actual copy of the constitution in american history. - well that, the one that we pulled it out, it wasn't meant to be that way. the line said if you read the constitution, look for the word liberty and equal protection and all that but it so happened that i had been
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keeping the copy of the constitution in my pocket and i told ghazala while we are walking towards the cab that had come to take us to the convention that i had this copy. she says, "make sure you take permission from them first "before you pull out." so, i said, "okay, i will." but then she has always been my adviser and my editor, she says to me she says, "make sure that you don't "pull it out the way you're pulling it out of your pocket. "it's upside down." - that's bad. right, exactly. a little trivia. - "place it like this so it comes out --." mr. khan, we're just about out of time for here. i could talk to you about this forever. i just wanna say to you and to mrs. khan, god bless you. - thank you. - thank you for your service and sacrifice for this country which you've done and the story of mr. khan, captain khan, which is a wonderful inspiration to all of us. - thank you. - and thank you for telling the story in different formats. - i am grateful. - khizr khan. give him a big hand. (audience applause)
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- {male narrator] we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at klru.org/overheard to find invitations to interviews, q and as with our audience and guests, and an archive of past episodes. - if you ask mrs. khan, she always wears the traditional clothing, she has not experienced any difficulty throughout the country. she had been in texas, other parts of the world, she had been in texas, other parts of the world, other parts of the country and all that. she has always been respected and dignified. - [female narrator] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy and by claire and carl stuart. and by claire and carl stuart.
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and by cl[soul music]l stuart. - (male narrator) memphis, tennessee. it has been written, if music were religion, then memphis would be jerusalem, and sun studio its most sacred shrine. - (male singing) ♪ listen to me fellas ♪ if you're runnin' around, tryin' to love ladies... ♪ - and you are here with don bryant and the bo-keys. - ♪ believe me when i say ♪ boy, i had to learn these things the old fashioned way ♪ ♪ if you had a million bucks ♪ - hi, my name is don bryant, and i'm playing here tonight with scott bomar and the bo-keys. ♪ listen to me ladies, i'm talkin' to you too ♪ i was born and raised here in memphis, in south memphis.

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