2016: Gold Star father speaks at Tigard community center
Editor's note: This story is part of the The Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that captivated readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
Most of the time, Oregon is far removed from the spotlight of national politics.
Oregon hasn't been considered a "swing state" since 2000, and it's of modest size and electoral importance, not to mention distant from the usual hubs of media and government like New York City and Washington, D.C.
But just days before the 2016 presidential election, a man who had become an unlikely protagonist in one of the nastiest, most expensive races in American history visited a visited a community center in Tigard to share his story and perspective.
Khizr Khan immigrated from Pakistan to the United States, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1986. His son, Humayun Khan, joined the U.S. Army. Capt. Khan was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.
Like most Pakistanis, the Khans are Muslim. When Donald Trump, then one of several Republican candidates for president, called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in December 2015, it grabbed Khizr Khan's attention, and he became a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
As an invited speaker at the Democratic National Convention, Khan famously produced a pocket copy of the Constitution and offered to lend it to Trump, by then the Republican nominee for president. Trump fired back at the Gold Star father, suggesting he hadn't "allowed" his wife, Ghazala Khan, to speak at the convention and saying, "While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things."
The Clinton campaign later put out a television advertisement starring Khizr Khan, and Khan became an unofficial campaign surrogate of sorts, speaking to audiences around the country and denouncing Trump's attacks on Muslims and his family.
The Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard hosted Khan for an Oct. 23, 2016, speech on "Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers," a regularly featured topic at the mosque and community center. Hundreds of people, both from within and outside the local Muslim community, came out to hear Khan speak. He was introduced at the event by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and Clinton supporter.
"This is not an election," Khan said. "This is a test of our time."
Khan urged audience members to disregard election polls, participate in the election and be ready to reconcile with those who supported another candidate afterward.
As it turned out, although election polls predicted Clinton would win — and she did, in fact, win the national popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes — Trump won an upset victory in the Electoral College, making him the country's 45th president. He won just 39.1% of the vote in Oregon but performed better than expected in the Midwest and parts of the Northeast, winning the traditional Democratic strongholds of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as one electoral vote in otherwise Democrat-friendly Maine.
While the Trump administration has moved to severely curtail the number of refugees the United States accepts each year, restrict travel from certain countries, and step up deportations of undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers, up to this point, the president has not followed through on the so-called "Muslim ban" he proposed in 2015. He is up for re-election in 2020, with some polls and analysts suggesting he could again win in the Electoral College even if he gets fewer votes than his Democratic opponent nationwide.
Campaign manager Brad Parscale has suggested Oregon could be among the states Trump targets in the 2020 election, although Trump remains deeply unpopular in Oregon, according to most polls.
As for Khizr Khan, while his profile has diminished considerably since the 2016 election campaign, he continues to make occasional television appearances and speak at events. In November 2019, he endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee for president and said he plans to campaign for Biden.
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