Farrukh Khalikov

“Leaders…are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

—Vince Lombardi

Farrukh Khalikov graduated from his high school class in Bukhara, Uzbekistan with a GPA averaging 96%, and if his background had been different, he might not have been told his grades were too low to be admitted to the university. Forming a newly independent country of many ethnicities—Tajik, Kazakh, Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, German, Persian, Tatar, Turk, Jewish, Korean—the predominant Muslim Uzbeks did not yet seem to value the contributions of diversity. Christians and Meshketi Turks were isolated and even killed in the Fergana Valley region, the much fought-over agricultural heartland in eastern Uzbekistan. Belonging to a small but united indigenous community of Bukharian Jews, Farrukh had to struggle to earn his welcome.

He felt fortunate to find tutors and mentors who encouraged him, and he became an exchange student in Carlisle, Iowa for a year through the FLEX program—Future Leaders Exchange program offered by the State Department. He volunteered for the Bukhara State Lyceum, where his employer described him as “an excellent writer and publicist.” Hard work finally paid off for Farrukh.

After three years of persistent effort, the Uzbekistan State World Languages University accepted him. He plunged into activities—the American Corner, Komolot Youth Social Movement, the Debate Club, and varsity level boxing within the first month—and became instant friends with his Muslim roommates, sharing traditional dishes from their families. Farrukh soon added radio broadcasting, varsity wrestling, and Student Council and Affairs, along with varsity soccer in the Spring. Impressing his advisor and debate judges, he became captain of the debate team. One of his instructors described him as often appearing bruised and injured, yet never flagging in his wrestling competitions. Vince Lombardi might have been astonished to learn that he’d inspired a disadvantaged Jewish boy in Uzbekistan to create his own advantages in life.

It didn’t take Farrukh long to become head of the Student Council, and by the end of that school year, he was named Best Radio Broadcaster and Best Translator. Languages have been a major academic focus, and he speaks Uzbek, Russian, Tajik, Farsi, and some Greek and Spanish. He’s also interested in history, economics and diplomacy.

Farrukh’s sense of competition compelled him toward leadership, but he’s learned that although a managerial position establishes the authority to accomplish specific objectives, it alone simply creates a boss. A true leader’s power is only as effective as what his team or workers agree to do. As debate captain, he realized that his team didn’t care as much about the “attributes of a leader” as they cared about his behavior. Everything depended on respect for someone deemed honorable and selfless. More than just being in charge, Farrukh seeks to develop skills that support the community.

Whatever he chooses to do, he hopes to be a part of Uzbekistan becoming a society where the government has the consent of the governed, where freedom of speech will never be taken away, and opportunities exist for everyone with a good idea and the willingness to work hard.