Karim Farishta is one of 54 students nationwide recognized with the honor.
By Tamara Jones
From the time he was a small boy in his native Sugar Land, Tex., Karim Farishta’s immigrant parents imbued him with a sense of public service, taking him to charity walks and poverty-awareness events. Senior citizens with no family of their own became his adopted grandparents. His brother signed up for Teach For America. His mother devoted herself to helping disabled kids.
We are who we are because others helped us, his parents often reminded him.
The lesson took.
The International Affairs major with a concentration in conflict resolution at the GW Elliott School of International Affairs was one of 54 students nationwide awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship recognizing college juniors “as future change agents.”
Created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to the 33rd president, the Harry S. Truman Foundation bestows a $30,000 grant toward graduate studies for candidates who demonstrate “the passion, intellect and leadership potential” to serve the public good.
Mr. Farishta said he considers the honor “an inspiring call to action for me to continue to use my knowledge and experiences to embody the values of President Truman in my everyday actions and professional pursuits.”
An International Leadership Foundation Civic Fellow, Mr. Farishta interned at the White House and the U.S. Agency for International Development and recently landed a full-time job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He works long, but rewarding days as a staff assistant for White House Personnel in the Office of Management and Administration, then goes straight from work to evening classes three days a week.
“People have this concept that the White House is this building where things happen, but people are not sure how,” Mr. Farishta said, adding that he draws inspiration from the passionate colleagues “who are not too different from me, but just like me with even bigger ideas and bigger hearts.”
“From the first day I entered the White House gates, I was reminded that as the son of South Asian immigrants who came to the United States to fulfill their American Dream, I would do everything I could to make the American Dream a reality for more people,” he said.
It was a commitment he made while still a teenager, when Mr. Farishta founded in his hometown the first youth-led Global Issues Summit, a conference that has since “inspired over 1,500 youth to turn awareness into action” on issues such as discrimination, immigration and hunger.
A chance to study why human rights are violated and how they are restored at the ground level in Chile, Jordan and Nepal during the fall of 2014 had “a huge impact” on the aspiring public servant, who plans to pursue a J.D. focusing on immigration law after completing a Masters in Public Policy with a concentration in International and Global Affairs.
A month in Amman visiting urban war refugees who had fled Iraq and Syria left Mr. Farishta determined to someday chase another “larger than life goal,” and uncover the journey his own parents remember only in fragments as their families fled war zones in South Asia by boat, plane and car.
“What I remember most,” Mr. Farishta said of his semester abroad, “is someone saying, ‘after blood come tears.’ Psychologically, there’s no way to erase or forget the scars of war… It takes optimism, passion and courage to come through an experience like that.”