HARIS HOSSEINI, 18
Haris Hosseini, a high school senior in San José, California, is dedicated to using his voice to speak about the social issues, both domestic and global, that matter most to him. Currently ranked the #1 orator in the United States, he has accumulated numerous accolades at national speech and debate tournaments all over the U.S.
As the son of a novelist, the written word has been elemental to Hosseini’s upbringing, and writing has been a hobby since his childhood. Over the years, Hosseini has been experimenting in fiction and turns to writing in the moments during which he is not so sure of himself. Writing allows him to transform his thoughts—as hectic as they often are and as intrusive as they can be—into something cathartic that becomes part of his personal development.
Hosseini sees an undeniable vitality in today’s youth. As the Founder and President of the Tech Museum of Innovation's Student Board in San José, Hosseini was the lead organizer of the 2018 Youth Climate Action Summit, a gathering of over 600 Bay Area youth. His peers around the United States have proven that a student’s voice is a powerful one, and they cannot be silenced or subdued. Lately he has been closely studying gender roles and new ideas in modern gender studies, especially the idea of toxic masculinity. The focal point of his activist research last year was to understand how many of the societal and cultural problems Americans struggle with (including mass shootings, campus rape culture, workplace harassment, anti-LGBT hate crimes) are rooted in the American upbringing of boys. He believes that the world needs more men who are willing to exhibit that which makes us all human: kindness, compassion, and sensitivity.
Hosseini serves as a Media Director for The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, an organization founded by his father, that provides humanitarian support and relief to Afghanistan’s women and children. He has also travelled to Lebanon, Uganda, and Italy with the United Nations Refugee Agency to speak with and advocate for refugees fleeing conflict and persecution.
Hosseini will be studying political science and human rights at Columbia University in the fall of 2019.
by Haris Hosseini
A teacher of mine once described to me the moment he realized he was not alone in this world. This occurred, he told me, when he read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time as a young man in the Midwest. Hawking was the vessel of my teacher’s adolescent realization that his unshakeable, lifelong love for numbers was one shared by other human beings. I imagine his youthful hands flipping pages under the glow of a nightlight, his heart slowly encountering a wonderful notion. It was the idea that in fact, within the universe Hawking so beautifully delineated, there existed another universe in which boys and girls like himself found mathematics in every corner of the world and grasped unthinkable numerical beauty in the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we think, and the way we love.
While the teacher’s curriculum proved too complex for me, his experience touched me because it is a universal one: the adolescent seeking out of those who see the world and its nuances through the lens they do. For all my life, I have been keenly interested in the study of social sciences. While I have not been privy to a world of theoretical analyses or quantifiable laws like the one my teacher so ardently adores, I belong to the world adjacent that falls under the name of the humanities. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the laws of physics that govern our world or admire the mathematical principles that dominate our universe. It’s simply to say that I have fallen into a love affair of similar depth, but of differing principles. History class lit the same fire in me that physics class lit in my teacher. Hawthorne is my Hawking, and Nabokov is my Newton. If I and another more numerically inclined individual were to look up at the stars together tonight, while he or she might take interest to the trajectory of constellations, or the vast possibilities that exist in the galaxy just beyond, I’d begin to wonder if prehistoric beings saw the same night sky that I do, or if words exist in our language to explain the inexplicable beauty of our solar system, or if there’s really any point at all in the further probing of a universe we suspect to be endless.
I find that the humanities are aptly named to be just that: the study of humanity, in all its glory and ugliness, in all its tendencies and propensities, and in all its failures and victories.