Posted by Arab American Institute on April 26, 2018 in Blog

(Washington) – Tonight, the Arab American community will honor the legacy of author and poet Kahlil Gibran during the 20th annual Spirit of Humanity Awards. Through the event, Arab Americans recognize individuals, corporations, organizations and communities whose work, commitment and support make a difference in promoting coexistence and inclusion in all walks of life. The awards are named for the author of The Prophet, whose message of human endurance and triumph was so evident in his life and work. The awards further symbolize Gibran’s pride in his Arab heritage, respect for the freedom he found in the United States and his universal love of humanity.  

Past gala participants and awardees include advocate and actress Salma Hayek Pinault, ALSAC – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, former President of Poland Lech Walesa, former Sen. George Mitchell, Habitat for Humanity, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reporters Without Borders, former professional boxer Muhammad Ali, journalist Christiane Amanpour, Amnesty International, Refugees International and recording star Sting among many others.

NBC News Reporter and White House Correspondent Vivian Salama will act as Master of Ceremonies for the 2018 Gala.

2018 Awardees: 


Irish Senator Frances Black: Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award for Individual Achievement 

Senator Black is an Irish legislator who has exemplified outspoken commitment to upholding the rights of those who are considered to be among the most vulnerable individuals in society. As an individual who overcame alcoholism herself, Senator Black is a passionate advocate for individuals affected by addiction. She is the founder of Recovery In a Safe Environment (RISE) Foundation and currently serves as chairperson for the Oireachtas Cross Party Group on Alcohol Harm. RISE Foundation is a registered charity founded by Senator Black that is dedicated to working towards helping families work through their loved one’s addictions in a constructive, future-oriented manner.  

“Children living with parents who drink in a harmful manner are amongst the most vulnerable in society. The wide range of harms that are caused to children as a result of harmful drinking in the home is known as ‘hidden harm’, as the harm is not often visible in public and largely kept behind closed doors. As we work to support and strengthen the lives torn apart by addiction we hope to help children and families realize Kahlil Gibran’s message of human endurance and triumph – which is why I am so glad to accept this Gibran Award for Individual Achievement and at the same time shine a light on this important issue," Senator Black said.

“Her compassion for the vulnerable and forgotten and her consistent dedication to social justice is what makes Senator Black a positive change-maker. She has the courage of her convictions to challenge government-processes when they fall short and that makes her a trailblazer and role model for all those who pursue justice wherever it is needed. Her career is a great example that an individual’s call to service can take many forms,” said AAIF President James Zogby. 


José Andrés and World Central Kitchen: Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award for International Commitment

 In the wake of Hurricane Maria, José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen team wasted no time gathering their efforts to assist survivors in Puerto Rico. In under a month, Andrés’ team operated out of 18 kitchens and distributed more than 120,000 hot meals every day to successfully reach all 78 municipalities on the island. Although World Central Kitchen initially anticipated providing short-term relief, the team’s experiences in humanitarian aid inspired Andrés to continue his service.

World Central Kitchen has evolved into a global group of chefs “creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty.” Initially, Andrés founded the organization in response to the devastating circumstances in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Since then, World Central Kitchen has worked with communities in Brazil, Cambodia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Zambia and the United States.   

“What World Central Kitchen and its partners have seen while working with local communities is that coming up with smart, sustainable solutions – and listening to and respecting people in need – has the potential to have a huge impact. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference but you do have to roll up your sleeves and get to work. That is something that Kahlil Gibran very much recognized, the goal of providing for others what you dream to achieve for yourself. If we do that, we can make positive change in our local communities and the world around us. That is why we are so proud to be receiving the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award,” said Chef José Andrés, Chair of World Central Kitchen.

“Individuals like Andrés who rise to the occasion and heed a call to service truly embody the spirit of Gibran. We are honored to highlight the accomplishments of Andrés and World Central Kitchen,” said AAIF Foundation Director Maya Berry.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award for Institutional Excellence

From their foundation in 1920 in response to unwarranted government raids that affected hundreds of Americans to challenging the unjust internment of Japanese Americans and segregation in the Jim Crow South, the ACLU has helped lead the charge against xenophobic and discriminatory policies during some of our nation’s darkest moments. Having participated in more Supreme Court cases than any other private organization in the last nine decades, the ACLU remains a staunch defender of civil liberties today, helping lead the charge against the Muslim and Refugee Ban.

“I am honored to accept the Kahlil Gibran Award for Institutional Excellence on behalf of the millions of people who make up the staff, members and supporters of the ACLU," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "For nearly 100 years, we at ACLU have stood on the side of equality and justice even in inconvenient times, for the most marginalized among us. While we advocate for the rights enshrined in our constitution, what we truly strive to do is to give voice to the people whose rights are in jeopardy. That is why this award -- an award named 'in the spirit of humanity' is so meaningful and important in these times. Rest assured -- we will continue to fight for humanity here in America: in courtrooms, in state capitals, in Congress and in the streets."

“We have the privilege of working closely with ACLU lawyers and staff on some of the most pressing issues of our day. We honor the ACLU because we know how they work tirelessly to ensure our country lives up to is ideals of liberty, freedom, and equality for all every single day. And when our nation has strayed from those ideals, the ACLU has been there to fight back, helping to lead the legal challenge, as is the case with the Muslim Ban today. We couldn’t be prouder to celebrate their work on the twentieth anniversary of the Kahlil Gibran Awards,said AAIF Foundation Director Maya Berry. 


Ambassador Marcelle M. Wahba: Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service

Amb. Wahba’s distinguished 22-year career exemplifies a strong commitment to sustaining cooperation between the U.S. and Arab nations. Over the span of two decades, Amb. Wahba climbed the ranks at the U.S. Department of State from Deputy Policy Officer in the Near East Office, to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As the first female U.S. ambassador to the UAE, Amb. Wahba drew on her heritage as an Arab American to inspire her public service.

Currently, Amb. Wahba serves as the first President of the Arab Gulf Institute, where she continues to build bridges of understanding between the U.S. and Gulf Arab states. “I dedicated my career to promoting better relations between U.S. and Arab countries. It is a pleasure to be honored by an organization dedicated to widening the breadth of cross-cultural understandings here at home,”Amb. Wahba said.

“Like Halaby, Wahba embodies the spirit of public service through her diverse and long-standing career filled with significant milestones. She is an individual of many talents who is committed to her community and country. We are proud to honor Wahba for her achievements in public service and dedication to bettering relations between the U.S. and Arab world with the 2018 Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service,” said AAIF Foundation Director Maya Berry.   

WHAT: 20th annual Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards gala

WHO: honorees include The ACLU, José Andrés and World Central Kitchen, Irish Senator Frances Black, and Ambassador Marcelle M. Wahba

WHERE: J.W. Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 

WHEN: Thursday, April 26, 2018 Reception 5:30 PM | Gala dinner 6:30 PM

MEDIA CONTACT:; 202-429-9210

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About AAIF: The Arab American Institute Foundation’s goal is to encourage, recognize, and celebrate Arab American participation in American civic life, and to cultivate and mobilize a strong, educated, empowered Arab American community that can play a meaningful role in developing and improving U.S. policies. A not-for-profit affiliate of the Arab American Institute (AAI), the Foundation supports programs that promote greater awareness of Arab Americans in the United States, demographic research and international outreach. The AAIF serves as the primary national resource on the Arab American experience for the media, academia, government agencies and the private sector. Through its numerous outreach programs, the AAIF builds leadership skills among students and young professionals and informs the American public, government agencies and organizations about the contributions and concerns of Americans of Arab descent.