Stories around the Community Khodr Farhat for Dearborn School Board: An Eye on Education


by Stephen Coats

The Yemeni American News

 

khodr Farhat is a public speaker and advocate for people with disabilities. He was born blind and is now running for school board in Dearborn, Michigan.We recently spoke with Khodr and his contagious optimism and real life experience bring some very unusual and compelling tools to the table in this Dearborn School Board election.  Here are some of his thoughts…

“No one is perfect, everyone has either an invisible disability or a visible one. I cannot see yours but you can see mine because mine is physical. At some point, somehow every individual has a weakness.”

“I was born back in 1993 in Beirut Lebanon, I stayed there for 15 years of my life with my mom, dad and two sisters, one of which is also blind. I attended a private school for the blind, deaf and autistic children. I had a very difficult life and the society looked at us as if we could not achieve much. So we faced many challenges and we encountered many problems, but attending school was the only thing that I had. That’s what I did, I attended school all the way up to the 9th grade until I came to America.”

“There were two major reasons why we came to the United States, my uncle lives here and it is the greatest country on earth.  Lebanon has inadequate facilities and services for blind people and disabled. We cannot really hide that, however, this taught me how to be myself when I was living over there going to school, on the streets, with the family at the house, social activities.  Although I did not have any strong support or network it taught me how to be strong, to be myself and to stand for my rights by myself.”

“When I first came to America I did not speak one word of English.  Also I did not even know one major person in the community, I didn’t even know any organization, however I felt that I had an eager ability and desire to serve, to volunteer and to give to my community.”

“After high school, college life was a bit different, a bit difficult, but I do have a very strong dedication which made it way easier.  As a blind person and as an immigrant, I was able to show people a different image of somebody who is disabled.  As a matter of fact, I no longer call it a disability, I call it a challenge.  We are mentally able; the only weak point we have is our vision.  We cannot become something that depends on vision but we can pretty much achieve and become anything else we want as long as we put the effort and time into it.”

“Currently I just graduated from Henry Ford College with an Associate’s degree in Pre-Special Education. Now I got admitted to the University of Michigan Dearborn with their highest transfer scholarship due to my grade point average. My goal eventually is the educate, tutor, motivate and help out the U.S. Education department and the world. Helping out not only the blind people. As a matter of fact, these days, I see a lot of sighted people who need so much motivation. They are hopeless, they lack that hope, and hope from my end is the main engine!

“After meeting and speaking with thousands of students, joining meetings with many high school principals, many college educators and university presidents I ended up with the decision to run for the Dearborn School Board. I do have the experience.  I experienced the very old traditional school overseas. So when I talk and I say that I was all by myself, I mean it.  We used very traditional and old equipment. I came here and did not speak English, I did not even know the technology, I did not even know the white cane (used by the blind), and yet I was able to learn and grasp all of that.  I am able to understand the real meaning of struggle. I do understand what people go through. I do understand what special education people go through.  Best of all, I am going to bring many sensitive issues to the table that nobody else brought because they did not go through it, because they did not have a friend with a physical challenge and it did not even come to their mind.”

“Best of all, I feel with others because I have different needs and these needs have to be met and how are they going to be met? Through education! Plus, without good education I would not be able to stand and talk, I would not be able to stand and motivate.  Therefore, education is a major key towards any success and towards any prosperous life and future.”

“The main goal is not only to inspire but also to add knowledge, to gain knowledge. There is nothing wrong with learning and teaching. I promise that I will keep on insisting and keep on serving the community because I was born in the uterus of hardship and I completely understand what that means.  I will always have the desire and extend my hand to reach out and give a hand of assistance to whoever needs it.”