Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Blog

On April 18, more than 500 Arab Americans from across the country gathered at the Renaissance Hotel for the 2012 Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards Gala, hosted by the Arab American Institute Foundation (AAIF). At a time of unprecedented challenges, the Gibran Awards brought the Arab American community together to honor leaders in fostering greater understanding and promoting the common good.

Ambassador Theodore Kattouf, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Syria and president of AMIDEAST, received the Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service. After he was presented the award by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood, Kattouf delivered a stirring speech, calling on the Arab American community to remain steadfast in the face of bigotry and intolerance.

A video tribute honored the Save Washington Street campaign for its efforts to protect the site of America’s first Arab immigrant community in Manhattan, New York. Ambassador Clovis Maksoud, former Chief Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, presented the Award for International Excellence to the Arab Thought Foundation, a non-profit organization in Beirut, Lebanon devoted to promoting Arab culture and solidarity, as well as international dialogue and humanitarian values.

AAI and the Arab American community marked the tremendous loss of journalist Anthony Shadid with a message from the CEO of the Green Bay Packers, Mark Murphy, and a moving video that paid tribute to Shadid’s work and legacy as a voice for ordinary Arab citizens in the American media. AAI President, Dr. Jim Zogby, said “the story was never about Anthony, it was always about the people he covered.” Shadid’s widow, New York Times journalist Nada Bakri, accepted the award on his behalf, and attendees were given a copy of Shadid’s memoir, House of Stone.

Congressman Keith Ellison presented the Award for Institutional Excellence to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that has worked to end racial intolerance in the U.S. from the Civil Rights Movement through today. Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef gave a hilarious introduction to Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad of The Muslims are Coming! Comedy Tour, who received special recognition for their work to dispel stereotypes and encourage dialogue about and with American Muslims in the U.S. and abroad.

Dr. Jim Zogby ended the evening by discussing the difficult issues the Arab American community has faced in the past year, including the NYPD and FBI training materials and the Islamophobic rhetoric of this year’s election season, and by emphasizing that Arab Americans must come together to take a stand for their community and their country.