September 17, 2007
Oxford freshman attempts to talk his way into the record books
By LAURA SOMMER
The school year is just getting started and at least one student has already pulled an all-nighter. But it wasn’t to finish a paper or to study for a test. Oxford College freshman Khurram Dara spent the bulk of Sept. 8 trying to talk his way into the record books. In order to accomplish this feat, Dara needed to lecture, debate or field questions for more than 24 hours and 18 minutes. Had he done so, he would have surpassed a record set in 1957 by the late U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond. Although Dara came up four hours and eight minutes shy of the record, there is something he accomplished that Thurmond did not — Dara was able to raise more than $2,000 for worthy causes.
During Dara’s taxing talkathon, he stopped for nothing, talking even while eating or making short trips to the bathroom. He paused only to afford students and other spectators outside Oxford’s Phi Gamma Hall the chance to challenge his views or to ask questions.
“For the most part I was able to respond; however, there came a point around the 15 hour mark when I just couldn’t process my thoughts clearly,” said Dara. He added that the most difficult part of his filibuster was not when dozens of people were around to hear him talk, but rather the opposite. “The hardest part was around 6 a.m. when it was just me and another person, or just me by myself. It was hard to stay engaged.”
The political science major from Buffalo, N.Y., spoke — often with great gusto — on topics ranging from Social Security reform to the 2008 presidential election. And with each hour that passed, he raised money for both Emory and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, thanks to generous pledges by a Covington Kroger store and two companies from his hometown: NFK Inc. and Buffalo Emergency Associates.
Dara’s classmates also helped raise money for hurricane victims during his attempt to break the filibuster record. A small faction of his friends sold rubber Katrina relief wristbands from a table near his podium. When it was all said and done, Dara and his friends raised an impressive $2,016. The money is to be split between Emory and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. And the students aren’t quite finished. The group is in the process of selling wristbands from the event and will donate that money as well.
Dara described the final moments of his filibuster as “a blur.” He admits: “I was feeling pretty lightheaded and was wobbling around. I leaned up on the podium and rested my head on it. At this point I wasn’t making real sentences and I can’t recall what I was saying.” Dara also had an excruciatingly strained voice. “My throat was pretty sore, mostly because there was a point where I started getting pretty passionate and began yelling across the Quad.”
Dara had friends on hand to document his filibuster with a video camera. He had hoped to submit the footage to a Guinness World Records representative had he broken Thurmond’s record. Yet the footage will not go unseen; Dara is considering posting it on YouTube.
What does this go-getting Oxford freshman have planned next? He won’t say exactly, but jests, “Stay tuned. I’m working on a few ridiculous, crazy and utterly absurd ideas.”