Posted by on November 17, 2010 in Blog
Had a good week last week that started with a great review in Foreign Affairs.
Then off to Peoria on Friday to celebrate Lebanon Day with the Itoo Club. Peoria has a sizable Lebanese American community. They have been remarkably successful - producing Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (one of the most outstanding and distinguished elected officials ever produced by our community), federal judge Jim Shadid, former mayor Jim Maloof and a host of State Senators, Representatives, City Councilmen and more.
The dinner featured Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid, former US Ambassador Michele Sisson, and Ray, who introduced me to give the night's keynote address. My topic was the role that Lebanese Americans could play in strengthening the US-Lebanon relationship. In a nutshell, my advice was that the community should function as "citizens, not exiles" and "export the American experience of working together and not import the Lebanese experience of factions and sects." I also chided those who are setting up what I called a "false dichotomy between justice and unity." Lebanon can and must work for both. Arab Voices sold out! What a delightful response!
From Peoria it was off to Ann Arbor where I was the keynote speaker at the AUB Alumni dinner. It was a wonderful event with friends, old and new. Peter Dorman, the AUB President spoke and I had another opportunity to talk about my book - starting with my first visit to Lebanon in 1971 when I received a grant to pursue my doctoral research, at the AUB. Signed more books. Unfortunate. I say "unfortunate" because my handwriting is so awful that what I write usually can't be read and I feel that it's more like I'm defacing the book!
On to Charlotte, North Carolina to the World Affairs Council. I'm a fan of the WACs because they bring together concerned citizens to engage in serious foreign policy debate. As I note in Arab Voices, this is a must if we are to understand the issues facing our country today. Next was a return to Davidson College, where I taught in 2003 and hosted the three Davidson-Baghdad dialogues that I write about in Arab Voices. Many of the folks who came to my speech had been at one or more of those incredible exchanges and agreed that if more Americans had actually engaged Iraqis before the war, or even after it started, different decisions would have been made. As I note: listening is the key. And we don't do enough of it. While at Davidson I met with a group of students who had traveled to Syria to study Arabic, with funding provided by the college. They and the school were so pleased with the experience, that the college is working to develop a full Davidson-Syria program! Another example of "Getting It Right."
Finally, an event at the Carter Center in Atlanta yesterday. President Carter had endorsed Arab Voices and I was honored to have received an invitation to speak at the Center. The event was cospnsored by the Alif Institute and the Arab American women's group in Atlanta. A wonderful audience with some of the best questions I've received to date!
Today it's back to DC for an event at Andy Shallal's Busboys & Poets. More to come.