From the Mountains of Afghanistan to the White House

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Ahmad with US troops he supported in Afghanistan
Ahmad at age 20 with U.S. troop members he supported in Afghanistan and remains friends with today. May 2009

As a boy growing up in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, who would have dreamt that I would one day have the honor of shaking President Obama’s hand while at the Eid al-Fitr reception held this summer at the White House?

Somehow, life has been kind to me, amidst the decades of turmoil and strife that has surrounded all Afghans. War, murder, and suicide were part of the daily experiences of children. How our parents and elders managed to raise us with some sense of normalcy is almost beyond comprehension. For myself, I was fortunately born with a talent for words, speaking over six languages by the time I was a teenager. At age fifteen, I found myself teaching English to leaders at the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

Ahmad with Madeleine Albright, Walk of Courage Gala 2016
Ahmad (right) with Madeleine Albright and another 2016 Walk of Courage Gala attendee.

At the Afghan Ministry of Defense something magical happened – I realized that translation not only entailed converting words from one language to another, but also required the addition of cultural meaning to those words that reflect the mores and customs of the people. In other words, I was learning to speak the language of diplomacy and tact.

Soon, I found myself interceding in arguments between officers and ambassadors representing various nations, in most instances smoothing the way to amicable resolution. My role quickly expanded to field operations, where I participated in projects such as “Operation Enduring Freedom,” helping the troops communicate safely and bridging a cultural divide between perception and intent.

Ahmad at the White House
Ahmad at the White House, where he joined President Obama’s 2016 Eid al-Fitr reception.

Currently, I am using my leadership, diplomatic, and language skills, and my ability to connect people from different cultures to spread the message of peace, love, and hope around the world. There are thousands of people living with no hope for a peaceful and happy future. My goal is to try to make this world a better place for them by spreading the message of peace and love everywhere I go. Together, we can make this world a better place for everyone.

I aim to make the world a better place through my innovative ideas for change. I hope that others, like my family members, friends, and countrymen currently suffering from the effects of geopolitical instability, will find sanctuary. I hope that with educational tools the international community will work to help make this a more peaceful and caring world.

I am looking forward to being a voice of reassurance and kindness to suffering people and observing first-hand the power of hope that proper education brings.


Ahmad Shah Mohibi participated in the 2014 LIRS Migrant and Refugee Leadership Academy.

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