Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Blog

By Johara Hall

2012 Summer Intern

George El-Khouri, a North Carolinian of Lebanese descent decided to run for delegate once more this year to honor his late father, Joseph El-Khouri. In 1988, he attended the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta with his father as a delegate from North Carolina. El-Khouri proudly noted, “We were the only Al Gore delegates in the nation who were Arab American.” He continued, “I can’t tell you the pride I felt. It was my first time getting elected as delegate and it was truly an experience. I have very fond memories of that time.”

El-Khouri’s experience in Atlanta was one he would never forget. He and his father were featured on a film at the convention and shown on national television. “It was very special to me when I saw my dad’s image on the big screen with everyone looking up at him. I had tears in my eyes and a television camera in my face.” That moment was particularly significant for El-Khouri because it “displayed my heritage, my father, and everything I was proud of.”

At the DNC, El-Khouri served on the State Platform Committee where he was able to participate in an open meeting. El-Khouri said, “Anyone could speak at this meeting and some Jews, Egyptians, and Palestinians had discussed the Arab-Israeli conflict. But nobody had said anything about Lebanon.” He added, “To be honest, I was upset. I mean, there was a war going on in Lebanon at that time …so, I interjected and simply stated that we had to work things out. Israel has the right to exist, as do Palestinians. The conflict was causing tension throughout the entire region and all we had were people with opposing beliefs trying to force their opinions on others.” His statements garnered him a great deal of support at the meeting, with onlookers applauding.

El-Khouri’s interest in politics stems from his father. El-Khouri says “It all started with Hubert Humphrey. My dad had traveled to the U.S. from Lebanon to do business back in the 1940’s, but liked it here and wanted to stay. Luckily, Fred Gates had introduced him to Humphrey, who helped him stay in the country.” Ever since then, El-Khouri and his father have been beholden to the Democratic Party. “If it wasn’t for Humphrey,” El-Khouri noted, “my dad would have had to go back to Lebanon.” Joseph El-Khouri developed a close relationship with Hubert Humphrey and actively helped him with his campaign, instilling in his son a strong sense of public service.

Given his upbringing, it is no surprise that George has dedicated his life to public service. After graduating from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Political Science and History, he taught English in Lebanon for a year. He then returned to the United States and became a training specialist at the State Bureau of Investigation at the North Carolina Department of Justice. In addition, he has also worked for the Attorney General’s office.

El-Khouri encourages young Arab Americans who are interested in public service to “approach everything with an open mind. An open mind can take you far.” He states, “I like to be known as a moderate. I’m not conservative nor am I liberal. I like to be known as a moderate, as a man of the middle. I am diplomatic and can see both sides of an issue.”

He also urges the Arab American community “to get involved and make people aware of who we are and what our heritage is.” El-Khouri added, “My dad never missed an opportunity to talk about his Lebanese heritage and likewise, whenever I have an opportunity to discuss my heritage, I do. I’m proud to be a Lebanese-American, a North Carolinian, and a Democrat. I even have a bumper sticker on my car that says “Proud to be a Democrat”.

As a proud Democrat, El-Khouri decided to attend the DNC in Charlotte one last time after running for delegate to honor his father who passed away on July 22, 2012. “When my dad was sick," El Khouri said, “I remembered how it was with him down in Atlanta and I thought running again would be the right thing to do. It is an honor for me to represent my father and my Lebanese heritage in my home state of North Carolina.”

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