Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Author: How Many Times… I Told You
Lebanese American Association
San Francisco, California
Saturday, March 1, 2008
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What a great gathering this is, thank you for bestowing on me the Lebanese American Association’s Outstanding Leadership & Achievement Award. It is humbling and at the same time gratifying to see fellow Lebanese Americans appreciating one another. You are very important immigrants for both the United Sates and Lebanon. More so, you are key to saving Lebanon.
The Lebanese Diaspora has the potential to be a tremendous force in the rebirth of a new Lebanon - the country we all love. I have witnessed this potential first-hand. On my book tour I‘ve met many immigrants who are determined to return to the land of their birth. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been here. They always yearn to return.
We all have worked hard and can be rightly proud of our successes in our adopted land, but many of us continue to look back to the old country with love and an abiding desire to help her.
Each one of us here this evening has made many sacrifices to free Lebanon from occupation. Lebanese emigrants are no clients for any regional power; we have not participated in any deal over the sovereignty, integrity and independence of the Lebanese people, therefore; we can make a big difference to fix Lebanon once and for all.
From Phoenicia to Mount Lebanon’s Fakreddine and Chehab dynasties to modern Lebanon there has been a fascinating relationship between the Diaspora and Lebanon. Throughout history, those who left never abandoned the country and never allowed the international community to throw it to the wolves.
We have worked hard to reverse the more than thirty years of international neglect toward our old country. We succeeded in having the United Nations issue United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 that became the cornerstone for the Cedars revolution. This was followed by several resolutions like UNSC resolutions 1680 and 1701 to enhance the sovereignty and integrity of the Lebanese people. However, the time has come for change inside Lebanon.
This change is desperately needed – a total change –and it can be possible if the Lebanese Diaspora stand up and make their voices heard.
Yes, stand up with me for a total change in Lebanon - I believe we can reverse things.
Stand up so the politicians in Lebanon can see that we are a major player for a stable, secure and sovereign Lebanon.
Stand up so they stop answering to regional powers over the heads of the Lebanese people.
Stand up so they resume the legislative sessions in parliament for the benefit of the Lebanese people and elect a President.
Stand up so a new parliament is elected in 2009 that works to provide the Lebanese people with good laws, strong armed forces, respected police and protection of their human rights.
Stand up so municipalities in Lebanon will elect the best and the brightest instead of the political godfathers’ men. I believe we can.
Stand up and stop them from splintering the Lebanese Diaspora with their divisive ideas.
Stand up so we can help the Lebanese back home protect that unique democracy and help them stop the installation of national leaders who use the weakest link in our society – religion - to divide the Lebanese people.
Stand up with me so we can stop those Lebanese leaders who put foreign agendas above the interest of Lebanon. I believe we can have a strong role in this change that is needed.
Stand up and reject this political godfather mentality; the fixing of electoral lists based on feudal lords and strong men; corruption, domination by militias, instability and migration.
Stand up so we can continue to nurture unity among ourselves here and in Lebanon where the East meets the West and Christianity meets Islam.
Stand up and let us together build the new 21st century Lebanon we can all believe in.
Stand up and let’s work together on three fundamental issues that will save Lebanon for generations to come. Let us Lebanese Americans from California to Maine lobby for a United Nations Security Council resolution giving Lebanon neutrality status, so no country is allowed to use its’ territory for wars against another country and none but the legal Lebanese authorities can bear arms.
Stand up and let us together push for Lebanese and Palestinian officials and the international community to work together and tackle as quickly as possible the issue of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The only solution I see for this 60-year-old problem is a United Nations Security Council resolution that moves the Palestinians out of Lebanon in an orderly and humanitarian way to potentially receptive countries around the world.
Stand up and let’s effectively push for a new electoral law based on the individual electoral circle (128 deputies so 128 circles) respecting the religious distribution that exists presently in the Lebanese constitution. That way each individual Lebanese would have his or her vote cast for the most competent candidate.
In my book How Many times… I Told You, I published several articles I wrote between 1986 and 1989. One is an article entitled “We are their solution.” In it I asked what Lebanese American could do for Lebanon, a Lebanon besieged by war and the destruction of all that it held most dear. In this article I asked:
Is it a dream to say the Lebanese American can create a peaceful solution for Lebanon?
Is it a dream to work in this direction through organization here, and small project there?
How interested are we in helping the people of our ancestry see the light?
How knowledgeable are we concerning the present situation in Lebanon....
Have we ever listened carefully to the new immigrants to find out what are truly their fears, their concerns, and what their families have lost since the war started in 1975?
What have we Lebanese Americans done so far, for our homeland?
What did we do to save this 6000 year old civilization?”
Today, 22 years later, I am again standing before you asking you the same questions while Lebanon is still looking for permanent security, stability and independence.
One hand, my friends cannot clap and so one Lebanese American cannot do much. Let’s stand up, roll up our sleeves and put our hands together for a real change so Lebanon will not vanish, so that we end the despair, and so we can redeem our proud heritage.
We will never kneel to any regional power; we will never yield or tire until Lebanon is once again a free nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you very much.