Salman (Sal) Khan

by Suha Memon from San Diego, California in United States

“I teach the way that I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him."
—Salman Khan

132524 Jurvetson [CC BY 2.0 (]Imagine sitting in a beautiful home with a cup of coffee in front of you with a fresh, out of the oven muffin, wondering what to do on a spare weekend day. Compare this scenario to sitting in a small room with a myriad of stress, wondering how to get food on the table, how to pay the never-ending bills, and how to take care of a family with a part-time job. The difference between these two realities is the ever powerful gift of education and its benefits. Salman (Sal) Khan has devoted his entire life to educating humanity so that they can live a comfortable life with basic necessities including food, water, and shelter. Khan was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1976 (“Sal Khan”). Before getting married in 2004, he attended Harvard University and MIT with full scholarships (della Cava). Soon, Khan met with his younger cousin who needed help with math. He decided to tutor her and tried many different methods of doing so. Once Khan found a successful way to teach her, he began tutoring his other cousins by making short, ten-minute videos from the comfort of his apartment closet (Khan). He saw the difference that his videos made in his cousins’ lives and wanted others to gain from them too, thus he put them on YouTube. As Khan saw an increasing number of people benefiting from his videos, he quit his job in 2009 to start and grow Khan Academy, a helpful platform with the goal of educating everyone and anyone, anywhere, for free (“Sal Khan”). Khan started getting offers to make his venture for-profit but rejected them. He is still currently working to expand Khan Academy and enrich minds across the globe. His selflessness shown through wanting to help others and his passion exemplified by putting in time and effort into his dream are qualities that every hero must possess. A hero must also be innovative, just as Khan is by changing the face of education and helping millions around the world get the education they deserve. With passion and selflessness, Sal Khan single-handedly revolutionized education and therefore enriched minds across the globe, which deservedly makes him a hero.

Khan quit his lucrative hedge fund job to put in the effort into expanding Khan Academy, showing that he is a dedicated and passionate human being. In an interview with Khan in the Harvard Business Review, he recalls his thoughts and circumstances when deciding whether to continue with Khan Academy and says, "But then you remember you don’t own a house, you have a baby on the way, and you haven't paid off your or your wife’s student loans, so you stop dreaming […] So when I started Khan Academy, I said, 'This is a hobby. This is a passion. This is fun.' And I protected it that way as it developed […] So I sat down with my wife and said, 'Let’s give it a year. If I can’t get it off the ground, I can go back to my old job.' Nine months in, things started to happen […] Within two or three months I had done 80 or 90 algebra videos. Then I moved on to geometry and calculus and physics" (qtd. in Beard). Khan evidently longed to embark on this new journey of creating Khan Academy. He took a massive risk because of his immense passion for education. He put everything on the line, including his career, family, and student loans with never-ending interest because he believed so greatly about this new craze. The hoi polloi would not commonly go onto pursue their dreams under similar circumstances, but he remained resolute despite the risks that accompanied his fascination and made over forty videos per month to educate people of all ages about different subjects. He was ardent about a good cause, which undeniably characterizes Khan as a hero. Even after Khan Academy was set up and running, Sal Khan mentioned in his book that he “was spending every ounce of [his] free time to work on it. Actually [he] was even spending a little of [his] nonfree time […] [his] heart was becoming fully invested with the potential of what Khan Academy might be,” (153). Khan’s dreams were finally being put together like a box of chocolates, and he had to ensure that every tiny, but important, chocolate was present. That is why he devoted every free second to making new videos and improving Khan Academy. Dedicating and sacrificing personal pleasures to pursue something of great value is the tendency of a hero. He was devout about what he believed in, and this passion is evident through the immense amount of energy and time put into Khan Academy. Despite facing challenges and meeting new forks in the road, Sal Khan remained passionate about a great cause and continues to achieve his goals by dreaming big.

132528 Academy [Public domain]Khan’s willingness to help others and his magnanimous nature make him a selfless person, thus a hero. Khan always aspired to let his venture benefit everyone and “[he] probably could have been rich off the idea, but when he came up with the vision for Khan Academy, he wanted it to be free. The mission — a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. That sole mission of the company, unchanged since he founded it in 2008, is plastered on the Khan Academy” (Tucker). Khan’s original vision and current vision has always been to help people. If other people had the chance to be in Khan’s shoes in this situation, it is highly probable that they would not do the same. Creating a platform this large with millions of users makes it tempting to monetize it. Khan wanted his resources to be non-profit and still benefit others, showing that he is a selfless person. Putting others before oneself is definitely heroic. As Khan mentions in his book, his goal is to allow people of all ages to benefit from his resources: “I wanted to do this in a way that would be equally helpful to kids studying a subject for the first time and for adults who wanted to refresh their knowledge […] I hoped to help students see the connections, the progression, between one lesson and the next; to hone their institutions so that more information, absorbed one concept at a time, could develop into true mastery of a subject” (7). Khan is different from others because he truly believes that everyone has potential, and he helps people for this exact reason. He knows that they can shape their lives with their education. Everyone turns to Khan Academy for help because they have a video for most topics on most subjects. In the rare occasion that they don’t have a video, they make it to cater to everyone’s needs. Khan works very hard to enhance other people’s lives and provides the resources for them, without receiving much in return. His unselfish motives and his generosity showcase altruism and heroism.

Sal Khan is revolutionizing education and helping millions of people by making it interactive and accessible so that anyone in the world can learn and prosper. He is doing this by utilizing technology to the fullest for his users, "but the automated software and videos are just a glimmer of the potential that Khan sees for technology to revolutionize education. In the long term, Khan believes his academy points to an opportunity to overhaul the traditional classroom, by using software to create tests, grade assignments, highlight the challenges of certain students, and utilize those doing well to aid their struggling classmates" (Temple). In this day and age, technology dominates our daily lives, and it can aid with education. Software used to create assessments to help students with their topics of struggle can make learning easier and more efficient. In addition, technology has a wide reach and allows anyone in any part of the world to access it. Khan is one of the very few, reaching out to every part of the world to help educate people. By doing this, Khan proves that he is a hero. When asked about his vision and ideas about changing education in an interview, Khan said, “I imagine the school of the future being one, two, or three classrooms with mixed age groups working at their own pace, tutoring each other and with teachers mentoring them. In real life, that is how people learn. The teachers and students are on the same side, not on different sides of the equation” (“Sal Khan”). Khan encourages working on a student’s weaknesses and improving upon their strengths. He wants people to obtain mastery rather than test scores (Khan). The current education system has been left unchanged for many years now. Khan is using his ideas and his platform to improve education, thus benefit society. With his intentions of helping others to promote their learning abilities and education, Khan uses technology to revolutionize education and benefit the world, making him a hero.

Sal Khan is a hero because of his passion, selflessness, and hard work put into revolutionizing education, all of which to benefit society and enrich minds across the globe. Khan’s commitment and unending determination despite facing difficult circumstances, continues to impact millions of lives. His life’s goal of educating humanity portrays his selflessness. Khan made access to quality education ubiquitous in third world countries using technology and an innovative new method of teaching. Khan inspires others to learn as best as they can and makes them believe that they can truly understand a subject well. In Khan’s book, he shares some feedback that he received: "The second was an email that I received via YouTube […] said that 'no teacher has ever done me any good' […] 'without a real mastery of elementary math I was slow to progress.' […] He wanted to let me know that he’d 'spent the entire summer on your YouTube page' […] 'and I just wanted to thank you for everything you are doing' […] 'Last week I tested for a math placement exam and I am now in honors Math 200' […] 'I can say without a doubt that you have changed my life and the lives of everyone in my family" (155). Khan inspired this man to work hard to reach his goals. The man that sent the message was severely struggling in math due to a weak foundation. After spending time watching Khan’s videos, he was able to fully comprehend the subject, placing him in the advanced class. Khan inspired the man to believe that he could do it. This also impacted the lives of his family members. In addition, Khan is an inspiration because he shows how having a vision can lead to success. He began his journey by making videos in his closet and was able to expand his ideas to reach his goals. From Khan, we learn to be passionate about what is right, to help others, and to take action for what we believe in. Khan inspires me to always work hard and to never give up. His dedication makes me realize that nothing can stop me when I am fixated towards a goal. The reason why education is so near and dear to my heart is because I’ve seen how it has changed the lives of my parents. When I hear stories about my father as to how he grew up in a small village in India, and how he was able to use education to his advantage and eventually end up in the United States at Harvard, I realize the value and impact of education. When I see someone like Sal Khan making education possible for millions of people like my father, I confide that anyone who can empower and inspire an individual is a hero. I firmly believe education is the weapon we need to fight poverty, and bring happiness to the lives of millions of people around the world.

Works Cited

Beard, Alison. “Life's Work: An Interview with Salman Khan.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Publishing, 26 June 2015,

della Cava, Marco R. "Sal Khan commands a worldwide classroom." USA Today, 30 May 2012, p. 01D. Biography In Context, Accessed 25 Mar. 2019.

Khan, Salman. The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. First trade ed., Hodder & Stoughton, 2012.

"Sal Khan." Newsmakers, vol. 3, Gale, 2012. Biography In Context, Accessed 21 Mar. 2019.

Temple, James. “Salman Khan, Math Master of the Internet.” SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 Feb. 2012,

Tucker, Jill. “Sal Khan Creates Online Academy to Educate Anyone in World for Free.” San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 Jan. 2018,

Page created on 4/8/2019 7:23:06 PM

Last edited 5/2/2019 10:20:20 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Khan Academy - Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization founded by Sal Khan. Khan Academy provides thousands of videos about most subjects and has the intention to create a free education for anyone, anywhere.
Salman Khan - Khan Academy: Education Reimagined - This website provides a video of Sal Khan giving a speech at Nasa. Khan explains his journey and his views on education.
Let's teach for mastery - not test scores - This TED Talks features Sal Khan explaining his views on education. He explains the core goal of Khan Academy and how mastery should be achieved and placed at a higher value than test scores.
It All Started With a 12-Year-Old Cousin - This is an interview with Sal Khan in the New York Times. It provides insight about Khan Academy, Khan's life, and his teaching style.

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