Transcript: Khizr Khan on "Face the Nation," Oct. 22, 2017

Khizr Khan, a devout Muslim and attorney whose son died serving in Iraq, joined "Face the Nation" Sunday to discuss his new memoir "An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice." 

Khan, an outspoken critic of President Trump who delivered a memorable speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, also gave his perspective on the controversy involving Gold Star families this week.  

A transcript of the "Face the Nation" interview with Khan follows.


JOHN DICKERSON: We are joined by the Gold Star father who last year gave an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan. He is the author of the new book, An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice. Welcome. Thank you for being here. We want to get to the book, which was originally why we invited you here. But you are the father of son- of Captain Khan. And I wonder if, what your reflections are on this week now that we've had this public feud about Gold Star families.

KHIZR KHAN: In two words. Dignity and restraint. First, I offer my deepest condolence to the families of my four sons, brave hero sons that died protecting us. Without their sacrifice, this nation would be vulnerable. They were serving this nation. They will always be remembered. Their families will always be remembered as best of America.

I stand with them. I support them. They deserve utmost dignity and respect and privacy at this moment. That should have been quoted when this matter came to public. But that had not been done. It had been made political football. Again, I request and I ask utmost dignity, respect and privacy.

JOHN DICKERSON: This week, General Kelly, the Chief of Staff also talked about a number of things in American life that had fallen away. He talked about respect for women, for religion. And he said this "Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer." He was talking about the respect accorded to Gold Star families. You spoke at one of the conventions. What did you make of those words?

KHIZR KHAN: We stood for the best of America, for the values of this country. We spoke about the blessed documents and the traditions of this country. We spoke about the best Citizen Kelly, former General, and we acknowledge his sacrifices and service and his family's service. But now he is citizen of United States, should have refrained from doing exactly same thing what he was complaining about.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We'll continue this conversation after a commercial. We need to take just a bit of a break here, but we'll be back with more from Khizr Khan in a moment.


JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We continue our conversation with Khizr Khan, author of An American Family. Mr. Khan, before we get back to the book, I just wanted to get what you were saying about General Kelly. You were saying he engaged in the behavior he was criticizing?

KHIZR KHAN: This is American tradition that when military leaders retire, they go home, collect their pension, and they maintain the dignity that they have earned. In case of former General Kelly, he had- I was shocked - I was shocked to see Citizen Kelly standing next to the president when he- president could not have the proper word to condemn the attack on the blessed city of Charlottesville, Virginia by Neo-Nazis.

He stood, you could look at his face and his gesture in disgust, but he stood in support of that moment when Donald Trump could not condemn the attack that took place. Then again, instead of advising the president that restraint and dignity is the call of the moment, former General Kelly indulged in defending behavior of the president and made the situation even worse. Our political leaders elected by the people are deserved- deserving of equal dignity and equal respect, instead of being maligned on misstated facts. And that was beyond the call of the moment.

JOHN DICKERSON: We should note that you live in Charlottesville. I want to turn to the book now. And you write in it that in your American story there were many in America who were open and welcoming and gregarious. Give us an example of that.

KHIZR KHAN: When we first arrived, the very first day when we arrived, my two sons and Ghazala arrived in Houston, we had rented a $200 bedroom, one bedroom apartment for them. I was offloading the stuff from the car. We just closed the door after offloading. There was a knock at the door. Paulette, our neighbor was holding two bags in her hand. That was the first gesture of American goodness that we experienced. She said, "We brought this. You have two small children. They may need something. They just arrived." After she left, I looked at Ghazala. I said, "All the values that I had dreamed of about America, about this country, the goodness of this country, the generosity, we had been touched by those values while working in Dubai about Americans are true." And we began to fall in love. And that has continued, not only in Houston, but in Maryland, in Virginia. Every step, the generosity, the kindness, the dignity that America grants. We are immigrants. We are patriotic immigrants. When immigrants become citizens, the patriotism begins to come together by living, by experiencing the goodness of this country.

JOHN DICKERSON: When you first - you spoke at the Democratic Convention, but when- you used to carry a Republican membership card.

KHIZR KHAN: Yes. I very well remember the first political participation was, I was not citizen then, was to go and listen to Ronald Reagan's speech in Houston. I am very fond of his speech where he says about the city on the hill, the beacon of hope for the rest of the world. I was very much in support of his policies, his defining of the American values. And we tell that story in detail in our book and many other stories of how it all came together. I used to take my children to Thomas Jefferson's, with other guests, and I would ask them to read the inscriptions on the walls of Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Captain Humayun Khan and both of my children used to roll their eyes, because I had taken them so many times there. But look what happens. Patriotism begins to take root in the hearts and minds of people reading these values.

Captain Humayun Khan wrote an article, and we mention that in the book in detail, those stories. The title of his essay was, Democracy Requires Vigilance and Sacrifice. You probably hear my voice raising when I say this. In these tumultuous times, we all will be well-served if we are vigilant. Our democracy, our way of life, our self-governing is under attack.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me - describe for a moment the Declaration of Independence, where you first read it. And that, you talked about Jefferson, so we'll bring his work on the table here. What was that like the first time you read it?

KHIZR KHAN: I was 22 years old in Pakistan, had taken a course in Comparative Study of Constitutions of the World. Among the materials, the very first page was the Declaration of Independence. I looked at it. We come from in Asian countries then from colonized part of the world. Amazing, amazing document I read.

Is there a nation on Earth that declares its independence? Independence is given. Independence is attained. Independence is politically argued and received. Is there a nation? So that love affair started in 1972. And I am still in awe. Those 1,338 words of the Declaration of Independence, I implore all Americans to read it, how we founded this blessed nation.

JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, you have stepped into the political arena at the Democratic Convention. What has it been like since then?

KHIZR KHAN: It has been journey of hope, bridge building, interfaith dialogue, standing with those who truly care for the values of this country. We will prevail. I have seen the hope and aspiration in the eyes and in the hearts and in the minds of the people that I have dealt with throughout this nation. We are blessed to have all this.

I remembered the moment, and we explain that in the book in much more detail, when I became citizen of United States. I wish every American reads the Oath of Citizenship that I took. I had nothing when I went in human dignity terms, nothing when I went to take that oath. I came out blessed with all dignities that a human being aspires to have. It's that story that we write in the book.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Mr. Khan. Thank you so much for being with us. And we'll be right back.