Mt. Lebanon High School senior Raafay Khan, Oxford Boulevard, served a semester as a junior commissioner, and has also been a junior member of Mt. Lebanon’s Community Relations Board and liaison with the municipality’s diversity, equity and inclusion working group. He has won prizes in Model U.N. and mock trial competitions, founded the high school’s social justice club, worked as an intern with U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb’s 2020 campaign and is currently interning with Lamb’s senate campaign.
What do you think is going to be the biggest issue for people your age in the next five years?
I think that both at home in the U.S. and across the globe it’s going to be restoring trust. Trust in each other, in our institutions, in professionals and experts, and in ourselves. Democracy only works when we trust that we can make decisions in our collective self-interest based on reliable information. Even the rise of anti-science movements and the recent culture wars we’ve seen at home are the result of our lack of trust in anyone but ourselves.
What do you think was the biggest lesson to come out of the pandemic years?
I think the biggest lesson we’ve learned is how powerful human interaction really is, and just how necessary it is for us as individuals and as a group. We like to think we’ve evolved past our most basic, irrational instincts and that we can function solely on logic or rational thought; we think we can function in a multi-cultural society by learning about other cultures and people only in theory or by textbook knowledge. I think the pandemic has shown us that that simply isn’t the case; there’s still something incredibly powerful and necessary for our irrational brains in interacting with people face-to-face. We need to just get out there and start talking if we ever hope to get along with people different from us in their beliefs, values or culture in any sort of constructive manner.
You spend a lot of time volunteering and giving back to your community. What have you most enjoyed working on and why?
The most rewarding experience for me by far would have to be my time as a Community Relations Board liaison to our diversity, equity, and inclusion working group. Oftentimes, when you’re on a committee or a board of some sort, the work you do can be so abstract or high-level that you can feel a little bit disconnected from the results. With the working group I was able to really delve into the details of the work. Meeting with consultants, planning logistics for events, and coming up with ideas that were explicitly visible in the final products was a nice break from the broad-strokes sort of work I do more often.