ICYMI: William Barber, Khizr Khan Deliver Rousing DNC Speeches

By Sameer Rao Jul 29, 2016

Two men from different religious traditions channeled their convictions into inspiring remarks during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia last night (July 28). 

Mere hours after he advocated for a "radical revolution of our moral values" during a panel on faith and activism, Rev. Dr. William Barber brought his message of moral revision to an ecstatic crowd at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center arena. The preacher and activist, who described himself as a "theologically conservative liberal evangelical biblicist" invoked a message of moral purity and touched on bigotry and police violence during his speech:

When we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child, the Muslim and the Christian and the Hindu and the Buddhist and those who have no faith but they love this nation, we are reviving the heart of our democracy.

When we fight for peace and when we resist the proliferation of military style weapons on our street, and when we stand against the anti-democratic stronghold of the NRA, we are reviving the heart of our democracy. …

Now, my friends, they tell me that when the heart is in danger, somebody has to call an emergency code, and somebody with a good heart will bring a defibrillator to work on the bad heart. Because it’s possible to shock a bad heart and revive the pulse. In this season, when some want to harden and stop the heart of our democracy, we are being called like our foremothers and -fathers to be the moral defibrillators of our time. We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with the power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all. We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy. Not now, not ever.

Khizr Khan, in contrast, did not reference Islam-specific notions of morality during his speech. The father of Humayun Khan, a Pakistani- and Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq, somberly stood next to his hijab-wearing wife Ghazala and addressed fellow Muslim Americans’ patriotism in rebuke to Republican candidate Donald Trump‘s frequent Islamophobic rhetoric:

If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. 

Khan, at that point, pulled out a copy of the Constitution and held it up to thunderous applause from the crowd. 

While Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are often criticized for pandering to communities of color, both Barber and Khan’s speeches (which also included explicit endorsements of Clinton’s candidacy) rebuked the racist speech employed by Trump throughout his campaign.

(H/t The Nation, The Independent)