Posted by Shadi Matar on April 03, 2015 in Blog
The Arab American Institute kicked off the Arab American Generations program on March 30, 2015 with a packed room eager to hear from our esteemed speaker, Ralph Nader. Arab American Generations is the next evolution of the successful Emerging Leaders Program that was started by the Institute in 2010. Arab American Generations fosters the development of Arab American young professionals and leaders through monthly networking and educational events.
As an Arab American, Ralph Nader is the embodiment of mobilization and action. Among the many themes covered throughout the night, Mr. Nader focused on the importance of effective political mobilization within the Arab American community and perseverance in the face of adversity.
Mr. Nader, the son of two Lebanese immigrants, spoke about how his life in the U.S. was shaped by his Arab upbringing, which he details in his book “The 17 Traditions”. Everyday as a child Mr. Nader’s father would give him a problem to solve at breakfast and expected an answer from him at the end of the day. Nader took that problem solving spirit with him throughout his life and applied it directly to his successful advocacy campaigns.
As a young man Mr. Nader hitchhiked to from Connecticut to Washington to speak to congress on reforming General Motors safety standards in vehicles. As the motorists who picked him up along the way teased his lofty ambition he never lost sight of his goal. In the end, he secured monumental change in the automotive industry and brought higher safety standards for motorists across the country.
Mr. Nader has always been a staunch advocate for Palestinian rights and never shied from the question when it was brought up during his presidential campaigns. He recounted a story from the campaign trail when a young woman asked him a question about Palestine and the whole room got quiet. “You could hear a pin drop after she asked that question…because nobody could talk about Palestine like you can now.”
Mr. Nader stressed the importance of smart organizing and sound tactics that focus on getting the right message out to the right audience. Whether advocating for Palestinian rights or for clean air and water, Mr. Nader said that organizing is the best tool for those seeking justice in the world and that all it takes is a few concerned people coming together to make an impact.
When the question of AIPAC’s (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) power in U.S. politics came up, Mr. Nader responded by saying that “People convince themselves that they are powerless…” and that AIPAC is not as large as we think and are just well organized. His advice to the those in the audience concerned about AIPAC was to mobilize and organize around members of congress and makes this community's voice heard.
Mr. Nader ended the night encouraging all Arab Americans to go out and mobilize around issues that they care about no matter how big the goal is. We can think of no one better than the inimitable Ralph Nader to embody the activism and commitment to public service that the Arab American Institute has championed for 30 years. Arab American Generations seeks to nurture the next generation of young Arab Americans engaged in political life. Keep watching this space, facebook, and twitter for more on upcoming events in the Arab American Generations program.