17-year-old Sarrah Khan’s parents, and the way she was raised. taught in her that she had a duty to use her voice to make a difference and foster connections with others. “Even though my family is pretty small, we're quick and loud,” she said. “That taught me the importance of and how to make my voice heard and having a good laugh. I'm also a practicing hijabi Muslim. My time I spent at the mosque with friends and family taught me what a community was capable of and how vital unity is to accomplishing anything.”
"There is always strength in numbers, so as more teens vocalized their views on the podcast, it empowered me to do the same in my daily life.”
This past summer, Sarrah teamed up with her friend Mandira and started a podcast to share their thoughts on pop culture, current events, fashion, and more. They had enjoyed recording episodes when they had time, but soon, it grew into something more. “When we created the podcast, I didn't think much about the impact it could have—it was something we started for fun,” she said. “But over the summer, I realized that the podcast was another outlet we could use to share our generation's opinions on what mattered to us. There is always strength in numbers, so as more teens vocalized their views on the podcast, it empowered me to do the same in my daily life.”
Sarah is the co-creator and co-host of the “What We Think Podcast,” which promotes civil conversations between teens with different opinions and covers current events and controversial topics in a way that's digestible and entertaining for the average teen. “In the past few years, our country and the world have become polarized,” Sarrah said. “On social media and in person, we're quick to shut down or ‘cancel’ others who have different opinions than ourselves. But if we don't listen to others, we can't expect the world to progress. There are so many issues that our generation is fighting to fix—climate change, systemic racism, immigration, inclusivity—and if we don't start having these conversations, nothing will change.”
“On social media and in person, we're quick to shut down or ‘cancel’ others who have different opinions than ourselves. But if we don't listen to others, we can't expect the world to progress."
As an exceptional Gen Z’er making an impact, Sarrah was honored for her commitment to Unification as part of The ConversationaLIST. “I use my voice to remind my audience and peers that there is so much that matters beyond the walls of our homes and the bubbles we live in,” she said. “If I speak up, then others will be encouraged to do the same and share their voices as well.”
For those who haven’t found their voice yet, Sarrah said she would tell them to find something they're passionate about and start small. “You don't have to be on the front lines fighting for everything you want to change because that's unrealistic and draining,” she said. “Instead, support what speaks to you and learn about it. Naturally, as you research and educate yourself, you'll find ways you can help.”
Sarrah admitted that she isn’t sure about her life’s direction. “To be honest, the future scares me. It's difficult to picture myself in five years, but hopefully, I'll still be podcasting and an active member of my community,” she said. “I know my future lies in helping others, so I want that to be a key part of my future.”
The Conversationalist’s mission resonates with Sarrah because her podcast also seeks to break open echo chambers. “By becoming a part of The Conversationalist community, I'm connected with others who share the same goal, and we can brainstorm different ways we can promote this message,” she said.
Sarrah believes a unified world is not a world that agrees on everything but rather a world where people share their opinions and have conversations that challenge them. “As Generation Z, we are the future,” she said. “Any change we want to happen needs to start with ourselves. The simplest way each of us can do this is to engage in conversations with people that don't have the same opinions. To build a unified world, we have to get comfortable with agreeing to disagree.”
“We're all human, and we all make mistakes, so treat others, even if they don't agree with you, with kindness.”
To break open her echo chamber, Sarrah tries to ask others why they believe what they believe and empathize with their perspective. “We're all human, and we all make mistakes, so treat others, even if they don't agree with you, with kindness,” she said.
When it comes to navigating difficult conversations, Sarrah said respect and empathy are vital. “You have to remain civil and treat their opinions with respect, even if you think they're completely wrong,” she said. “Belittling their opinions will only make them shut down and refuse to consider your argument at all. Instead, respectfully ask why they believe what they believe and try to empathize with them.”