Posted by on May 01, 2014 in Blog

On April 25th, the Arab American Institute Foundation hosted its 16th annual Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards Gala. Senator George Mitchell received the Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service in recognition of his long and distinguished career and his unwavering commitment to peace.

In his video remarks to Gala attendees, Secretary of State John Kerry praised Senator. Mitchell for his work in the Senate, saying he was “way ahead of his time.” “[Senator Mitchell] was clearly someone with a moral compass who cared, and who didn’t just talk about peace and justice but did everything in his power to be able to implement it and see it lived by others.” He continued, “I have no doubt that those values came in part from George’s own journey – the son of an Irish and Lebanese immigrant from Waterville, Maine – a journey that made him ultimately one of the global statesmen of our time.”

Secretary Ray LaHood presented the award to Senator Mitchell.

Mitchell went on to give an incredibly humorous and moving speech about the role his Arab American heritage had on his career, most notably praising his mother’s hard work to give him a future and the impact her values had on his development. An immigrant from Lebanon, Senator Mitchell’s mother worked the night shift in a textile factory so that, as Senator Mitchell put it, “[her kids] didn’t have to.” “My parents knew little of history or of political science, but they understood the meaning of America. They conveyed their values to their children not by words - because neither was eloquent – but by example.”

My mother was, by far, the most influential and impressive person in my life, more than anyone or anything else. She is responsible for who I am and what I’ve done.”

Watch Senator Mitchell's address:

In his fifteen years in the Senate, including his tenure as Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitchell dedicated his time to some of the country’s most important issues. He has been instrumental in bringing about key legislation, including the reauthorization of the Clean Air Act and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Senator Mitchell’s boldness and commitment to the advancement of equality is evinced by his tireless work as United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland for President Clinton, and the United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace for President Obama. His personal involvement in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations is often cited as the crucial component in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999 for his efforts. In 2001, his “Mitchell Report” served as a groundbreaking review of the events that led to the Second Intifada and is widely praised for its fair interpretation of events and important recommendations, including its critical findings on Israeli settlement activity.

Senator Mitchell’s meaningful contributions to so many facets of American society and international peace exemplify the qualities of leadership and understanding that the Arab American community honors at Gibran and the Arab American Institute Foundation was honored to present the Najeeb Halaby Award to Senator Mitchell for his embodiment of the true spirit of public service.