Posted on February 02, 2015 in Arab American Institute



 2015 Gala Homepage


The Honorable Michael E. Baroody

Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service

Michael Baroody has served his country and his community both as a diligent and valued government servant and as someone who has achieved global recognition for his role in shaping positions of America’s corporations on critical issues. He began his career in the United States Navy, and then entered politics working first for Nebraska Senator Roman Hruska and then for Kansas Senator Bob Dole. From 1977-1980 he served as Research Director then Director for Public Affairs at the Republican National Committee. It was there, in 1978, that Mr. Baroody founded and edited Commonsense: A Republican Journal of Thought and Opinion, which became a revered platform for lively Republican policy debate -- made all the livelier, he says, by its regular inclusion of thoughtful articles by Democratic authors. The success of his journal helped to establish him as a thought leader in the Republican Party. He served under President Ronald Reagan as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Public Affairs. In 1985, Mr. Baroody was appointed Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Labor where he served until 1990. Michael became the Executive Vice President of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) where he led its lobbying and political work from 1990 until 2007. At NAM, Mr. Baroody was a leader in forging consensus during some of the country’s most important policy debates on issues ranging from immigration reform to energy and environmental policy. Presently, Mr. Baroody serves as the Treasurer of the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Foundation and Chairman of the Board of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, which works to identify and empower inner-city leaders to address and solve the problems of poverty, drugs, crime, and violence in their own neighborhoods.


Salma Hayek Pinault

Award for Individual Achievement

Salma Hayek Pinault is a true global citizen. Born in Mexico to a Lebanese father and Spanish mother, and now a US citizen, Ms. Hayek Pinault is an award winning actress and internationally recognized advocate. Through her work with the Salma Hayek Foundation she supports transformative initiatives to end violence against women and to bring global attention to humanitarian crises.  As Ambassador for the Avon Foundation for Women, she ensured that all domestic violence hotlines in the US had Spanish as well as English speakers, and opened the first Family Justice Center in 2004 based on the President’s Family Justice Center Initiative.  In 2005, Ms. Hayek Pinault spoke before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to demand the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was subsequently signed into law. With Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and the fashion house Gucci, Salma Hayek co-founded CHIME FOR CHANGE, a global initiative to support and strengthen women's empowerment projects and celebrate the stories of inspirational women across the world.  She served as the spokeswoman for UNICEF's successful 2008 campaign to eradicate maternal and neonatal tetanus around the globe, and was awarded the Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2010.  In 2012, she was named a Chevalier de la Legion D’Honneur by the President of France and she was presented with the Medallion of Excellence Award by the U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2013. She is in the board of the Kering Foundation and has also worked with other organizations such as VDay, Youth AIDS, Global Green and many others. Inspired by her Lebanese heritage, Ms. Hayek Pinault produced the animated adaption of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, a film that is sure to impact and inspire millions of viewers across the world with the power, beauty, and truth of Kahlil Gibran's poetry, when it is released internationally this year.


John Sexton

Award for Individual Achievement

Currently the President of New York University and Dean Emeritus of its prestigious law school, John Sexton began as Law School faculty at New York University in 1981. Prior to joining NYU, President Sexton served as a law clerk for U.S. Chief Justice Warren Burger of the United States Supreme Court after clerking for judges on the United States Court of Appeals. He is a man who combines rare qualities of academic leadership with a keen commitment to global education. Under President Sexton’s leadership, NYU has expanded to 13 cities around the world. His pioneering vision of higher education was powerfully articulated in his 2010 manuscript Global Network University Reflection, which established NYU as the first truly global university. With campuses across the world, NYU offers an unparalleled equality of education, access, and collaboration between campuses, students, and faculty. In particular, the NYU-Abu Dhabi campus is an important step forward in redefining relationships between the Middle East and the United States that keeps pace with the growing interconnectedness of the world. President Sexton is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in July 2008. Joining the University of Surrey Council of Advisors in 2015, President Sexton is currently a Fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Lawrence Wright

Anthony Shadid Award for Excellence in Journalism

The acclaimed career of Lawrence Wright began in 1971 at the Race Relations Reporter in Nashville, Tennessee where he provided critical reporting on the civil rights movement when the majority of news outlets had moved on. He later joined The New Yorkerwhere he wrote several prize-winning articles, and garnered two National Magazine Awards. The author of one fiction and eight nonfiction books, his 2006 book, The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize.  The Looming Toweroffered the first comprehensive look at the history of al-Qaeda, the lives of those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, and the counterterrorism professionals who tirelessly pursued them. It deepened the American public’s understanding of the context in which the events of September 11 occurred and was named as one of the best 100 nonfiction books ever written by Time Magazine. Wright then adapted the book into a play called My Trip to Al-Qaeda, which was turned into a documentary for HBO. He went on to produce several plays exploring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including The Human Scale –  a 2010 one-man play offering a sharp exploration of the events that led up to the Gaza crisis; and, Camp David, a play that follows the thirteen days President Carter hosted Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat for negotiations at Camp David. Having made a career humanizing and demystifying some of the Middle East’s most complex people and conflicts, Wright is currently writing and producing a new series for HBO called God Save Texas, which is centered on the world of Texan politics.