Posted by James Zogby on May 16, 2016 in Blog
Clovis Maksoud was an Arab nationalist, par excellence. He was giant intellect who taught generations of Arabs and Arab Americans the importance of transcending sectarian and country-specific particularities and finding common ground in a shared Arab identity.
I had studied Clovis' works in graduate school and it was, therefore, an extraordinary privilege to be able to work with him when I moved to Washington, in the late 1970's. I remember joining him for coffee on Friday's, at Kramer's Bookstore. He would read his latest column which, because of his failing eyesight, he had to hold very close to his eyes - in a voice that was just a bit too loud. I would sit in awe of his intellect marveling at his eloquence - not caring that the scene would regularly draw the attention of others in the coffee shop.
Because he meant so much to me, I will never forget a compliment Clovis once paid to my work. At a luncheon of local Arab American community leaders he had convened at Washington's Irongate Restaurant, he noted that "there are Arab American groups that pride themselves on being principled, but they are irrelevant. And there are others who work so hard to be relevant, that they end up with no principles, at all. But Jim has managed to create a group that is both relevant and principled."
He meant it as praise, but for me it was a constant challenge I had to meet and an ever-present yardstick with which to measure my effort.
Clovis Maksoud will be missed. But the lessons he taught and the commitment he inspired will live on. The best way that Arab Americans can remember him is to put aside sectarian divisions and country-specific agendas and come together recognizing the heritage we share and work as one community to advocate for our rights and for justice.