Mir Ali, ’09, a senior associate at Schiff Hardin LLP, returned to the Law School this month to speak about ways that veterans and civilians can better relate to one another. Given the presidential election and the tensions that have followed it, though, Ali’s talk ended up covering a much broader array of topics.
And who better to talk about how to mend post-election divisions than a former U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) commander who also happens to be Muslim-American?
He urged people in the audience to reach out to others who have opposing points of view. “Foster a conversation about it,” Ali said during the talk, which was sponsored by the Michigan Law Veterans Society (MILVETS). “Now more than ever, we really need to reach out to people we don’t agree with.”
The election made him think about his father, an immigrant who came to the United States from India at age 18 and was able to build a comfortable life for his family, Ali said. What about the potential immigrants of today? “It’s hard to accept that the door may just shut in the faces of those who are in the exact same situation as my father was,” he said.
“What’s the path forward? I try to wipe the slate clean for what he [Trump] has said in the past,” Ali said. “There’s a significant demographic that views him as change for the good. I have to be able to understand that and have those conversations.”
“It’s too easy to stay in our circles of like-minded friends and only listen to the news that reinforces our own opinions. But that will lead only to more division and misunderstanding. Americans who disagree with each other must start talking to each other instead of talking about each other. That’s the only path forward that I see.”
Such a philosophy also was the basis for an organization Ali cofounded: Team Red White and Blue, a nonprofit that helps enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
“We found returning veterans having a hard time reintegrating with society. And we found that civilians often didn’t feel comfortable speaking openly with veterans, because either they didn’t agree with the wars or were wary of asking about combat experience,” Ali says.
The organization has been very successful at getting veterans and civilians to form meaningful relationships, and, as a result, to understand each other much better.
“I ask all of you to reach out to the other side,” he said, noting that the reaching out should go in both directions. It’s necessary for veterans and civilians, just as it is for people who support the president-elect and those who don’t, he said. “I think everything comes down to personal relationships. You have to know them as a person to understand why they have a viewpoint that differs from yours.”
Read a profile of Mir Ali from the Law Quadrangle magazine.
Read more feature stories.
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