In today’s world where turbulent political discourse and anti-politically correct rhetoric occurs with great frequency, civility can be a rare trait.
But four graduates from Miami University Hamilton, all of whom are naturalized citizens, hope to make civility the norm in today’s society.
Shan Qureshi, 25, of Oakley, his brother Shar Qureshi, 23, of Dayton, and friends Kofi Ansah, Hamilton, and Jaree Naqvi, of West Chester Twp., have formed the non-profit Civility International.
On the heels of the political rhetoric of a Muslim ban during President Donald Trump’s campaign, and the now halted 90-day travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Shan Qureshi said, “I think that shows the need” for civility. The Qureshi brothers, and Naqvi, are Muslim natively from Pakistan. They, along with Ansah, a Presbyterian from Ghana, also became naturalized citizens within the past several years.
“I don’t think there’s been more of a need than there is now,” Shan Qureshi said. “The way we really want to address this with the youth that is coming up.”
This is also Qureshi brothers, Ansah and Naqvi, paying it forward after the sage guidance they’ve received, and still do, from Greg Ossmann, the executive director of the National Football League’s Players Association in Cincinnati.
“America is stronger because of these guys,” he said.
Ossmann said there is a criticism of some who immigrate to the United States, that they are not engaged. He said of these four men: “They’re engaged, they’re involved … and they’re successful.”
“This,” he said, spreading his hands, pointing to each man during an interview, “is what America needs.”
Ossmann first met Shan Qureshi and Ansah at a Miami Hamilton student government event, and started Ansah started talking and established what eventually became a mentor-mentee relationship, and Shan Qureshi said he started meeting with Ossmann a few months later “and the rest is history.”
He’s mentoring the Qureshi brothers and Ansah going on four years, and became Naqvi’s mentor just a few weeks ago. The soon-to-be 70-year-old said he doesn’t have the time to waste to not be “all in” with these four.
“They are going to carry forth the spirit, they are going to carry forth the united friendship and they’re going to carry forth civility — and they’re going to make a difference,” Ossmann said.
What Ossmann has done for these four naturalized citizens is to guide them to be their best. And that’s what they want to do for future generations, they said.
“Our relationship is not just professional, and he’s not just helping us to become successful,” said Ansah. “He’s really nothing short of a father to all of us.”
“We want to do the same exact thing to the next generation of leaders that are going to be world leaders, or business leaders and just plain old citizens,” Shan Qureshi said. “We want to add civility back into that equation, when they’re malleable, when they can be molded.”
Naqvi said that means to lead by example and “be the antithesis of what Donald Trump’s campaign was.”
“Multiple times during the campaign (Trump) said the American Dream is dead, but every single one of us are the American Dream,” Naqvi said. “Every single one of us immigrated here. We’re all citizens here and on paths where they can give back to this country.The best thing we can hope for is that people see us for what we are, as we basically model what we believe in. …We want to be the people that people can rally behind.”
Shan and Shar Qureshi were born in Pakistan and came to the United States with their families, and eventually moved to Liberty Twp.
Shan Qureshi, 25, now lives in Cincinnati and is studying at Xavier University in the health care administration masters program. Shar Qureshi, 23,, lives in Dayton and works at the Air Force research labs and is a Wright State graduate student studying pharmacology and toxicology. Both are graduates of Lakota East High School — Shan in 2010 and Shar in 2011.
Naqvi and Ansah are both medical students and graduates of Butler County high schools.
Naqvi, 22, is also from Pakistan and is a 2012 Lakota West graduate. He is in his first year at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.
Ansah, 24, is a 2010 graduate of Fairfield High School and is heading into his third year at Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica in the Caribbean.
“There are so many opportunities for leadership,” said Shar Qureshi. “We want to focus on leadership development of these middle school, high school and university-level students. And during that leadership we really want to prioritize and emphasize civility. It’s sort of a lost trait. We are a very modern civilization … but you cannot have civilization without civility.”
Long-term, the four want to enforce civility traits with youth.
“The main thing we’re trying to tackle right now is empowering the youth,” said Naqvi. “We’re tying to change it from the ground up.”
That includes reaching out to schools and implementing effective plans to improve the atmosphere by, among other things, teaching civility and tolerance and rewarding behaviors.
“The reason why Project Civility started in the first place is we saw an incident of bullying and we decided to step up and do something about it,” said Ansah. “When we saw that happen, we didn’t just sit back and go, ‘It happens. It happened in high school and it can happen here.’ We stepped up to do something about it.”