Charlottesville resident Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father whose son was killed in 2004 while deployed in Iraq and who became active in supporting religious freedoms and spoke to the Democratic National Presidential Convention in 2016, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom today.
Khan is among 17 people, from politicians to actors to athletes, being honored by President Joe Biden.
He is the founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center and an advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom.
The medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor and meant for people who contributed to the prosperity, values, or security of the country, world peace, or other significant contributions.
Khan joins Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, civil rights activist Fred Gray, Olympic soccer gold medalist Megan Rapinoe and actor Denzel Washington, among others.
Khan has served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under Biden and authored “An American Family — A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice” and “This is Our Constitution — for Middle School Students.”
At the 2016 convention, Khan criticized then Republican candidate Donald Trump for his proposed ban to keep Muslims from entering the United States. Khan is Muslim.
Khan grew up in Pakistan. His oldest son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who attended the University of Virginia and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the school, was serving in Iraq in 2004.
When the younger Khan approached a car to signal it to stop, a suicide bomber blew the car up, killing the 27-year-old.
Presidents have wide latitude in to whom they present the Medal of Freedom. President Trump awarded the medal to two dozen people in his four years in office, including Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah; the late Elvis Presley; former athlete-turned-politician Alan Page, Dallas Cowboy great Roger Staubach; golfer Tiger Woods; politician Devin Nunes; and the late talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, among others.
President Barack Obama awarded 132 medals in eight years and President George W. Bush gave 85 medals in eight years.
Biden, in a release, said Khan and the other Medal of Freedom recipients “demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith. They have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities – and across the world – while blazing trails for generations to come.”