In a year when so many people have felt isolated, Amaan Raheem has found a way to bring people together. Amaan is the founder and president of a Virginia Tech student organization called Closing the Gap. The organization is dedicated to bringing together diverse people -- often holding conflicting world views, ideologies, or perspectives -- to find common ground through meaningful conversation.
His nominator said, “In a time when our world and country are deeply divided, and when too many people are compelled to keep their distance, Amaan and his peers offer a deeply hopeful perspective, one built on the belief that the world can and will find peace through intentional efforts at listening and learning.”
Amaan said, “Civility to me means being able to listen to another side while being respectful and trying your best to understand. It doesn’t mean agree or disagree, but rather understanding their point of view and respecting their needs and preferences. I demonstrate respect by asking myself, ‘What is sacred to this person?’ By answering this question, I know what is important to them.”
Amaan went on to say, “During tough conversations I try to remember that everyone has a different way of thinking and thinks that they are being correct, reasonable, and rational when they are saying or acting a certain way. I believe it is very important to understand their thought process and the background and experiences that have formed it.”
Amaan recalled a conversation with one of his professors last year. He said, “It was a very deep conversation about the struggles of life and what it means to grow. I learned from his experiences that everything in life comes with change. Any decision you want to make in life, whether positive or negative, will cost you something just as equal. I think about that conversation almost every day, and it’s influenced me in making many decisions.”
Amaan is majoring in Business Information Technology with a minor in Peace Studies. His future may include nonprofit work. Fluent in Hindi and Urdu, Amaan said, “After graduation, I want to travel around the world and learn more about other cultures. I also hope to get my solo skydiving license at some point.”
His nominator said, “He is an inspiring student with an unusual and abiding goal of building bridges between people. I deeply admire Amaan and consider it a privilege to learn from him.” Amaan, we have all had the privilege of learning from you today. It is my honor to present Amaan Raheem with the Aspire! Award for PRACTICE CIVILITY.