Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director, Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs

Lebanese American Renaissance Partnership
Opening Ceremony
Beirut, Lebanon
Friday, November 10, 2006


Present here today are Americans of Lebanese descent from all over the United States . We share a common desire to make a difference not only in the lives of the people of Lebanon but also those of the United States - to serve both our mother country and the country that has adopted us all. What is transpiring in Lebanon today is of vital concern to the United States . And if Lebanon is to successfully pass through this time of great testing, it will need the continued support and friendship of the American people.

The historic link between Lebanon and America is now 206 years old. Generation after generation of Lebanese have migrated to the United States and settled there to seek new lives and opportunities. But the gathering of such eminent Lebanese Americans that we see here clearly demonstrates the vitality of our ties to the "old" country.

The America we know is an America of open arms, hospitable, generous and kind. The difficulties and risks we immigrants faced when leaving Lebanon - to live and work in a totally strange environment - were enormous. We have been able to succeed in our new country because America embraced us. But we also succeeded because we are who we are; because of certain virtues that we learned in the country of our origins.

The spirit of America that I am talking about shines through today and is present in this wonderful group of Americans who took time off from their jobs, left their families, and came to offer their services to the home of their ancestors. They are here today out of love and respect for both America and Lebanon .

Throughout the day today we will be discussing a range of issues of vital concern to Lebanon and Lebanese Americans. The first panel will discuss the Lebanese American experience in adapting to the American way of life; the second will discuss business opportunities and ways to engage Lebanese companies; and the third will debate the Lebanese Diaspora's effect on the social and economic life in Lebanon .

I am a firm believer in Lebanese immigrants. I have written many articles about "Algerbeh" and "Almegterbeen". I strongly believe that we can help bring about a new Lebanon . Our contributions are not only economic, but include endeavors that impact on political, social, and educational concerns.

In brief, our goal today is to offer our resources and know-how wherever we can to help the people of Lebanon .

No one better personifies the spirit of the people gathered here today than the Lebanese-American George Hage, our corporate leader in this mission.

I met George Hage several years ago. I immediately saw a truly committed individual, a unique amalgam of the best of Lebanon and America . He is an avid collector of fine wine and has a well-stocked wine cellar. He is an international traveler, at ease in all worlds' capitols. And yet in keeping with his Lebanese roots, he cultivates Lebanese vegetables in his own garden. If you want to eat "Banadoura Jabalieh" in America go visit the house of George Hage. He is an extremely generous man and he has never hesitated to support a good cause. A great American and at the same time a great Lebanese.

Ladies and Gentlemen please help me welcome our corporate leader George Hage.

(George Hage's remarks)

We are here in testimony to the spirit of the Lebanese people at this historic moment of trial and renewal and to stand by them to rid this beloved land of war.

President George W. Bush and the international community are committed to helping Lebanon regain its sovereignty and to secure democracy within its borders.

We are very grateful to have the Ambassador of the United States with us today.

Ambassador Feltmen has been an outstanding statesman in representing the United States in Lebanon . He has met his responsibilities with determination and grace. He is truly a first class act in our US diplomatic corp.

I have known Ambassador Feltman for more than three years now. I was privileged to be present when he gave his acceptance speech, following his swearing-in as Ambassador to Lebanon . He is a great patriot and stalwart friend of Lebanon .

Ladies and Gentlemen please help me welcome our Ambassador the Honorable Jeffrey Feltman.

(Ambassador's remarks)

I am grateful to all of you for making this day possible. I am particularly grateful for His Excellency the Prime Minister of Lebanon Mr. Fouad Siniora for the honor he has bestowed on this conference by accepting to have it held under his auspices as well as for being with us this morning.

Mr. Prime Minister,

One of the objectives of our mission is to show support for you and for your government. Since you took the helm of leadership, we have seen a new level of responsible political behavior. You have raised the bar of political conduct in Lebanon and are to be congratulated for your inclusiveness, courage and tact.

For all of that we respect you.

Mr. Prime Minister,

You have succeeded in forging a consensus in support of a historic task that seeks to reconcile all Lebanese patriots in advancing the lives of the Lebanese people and protecting its national border.

For that we admire you.

Mr. Prime Minister,

We are here to offer you our help and our commitment to assist you; in whatever way we can, to achieve your noble objectives of building a democratic Lebanon that is whole, free, and prosperous. We firmly believe that you are the right man for this job. Please continue to stand strong. What you are doing is - of course - important to Lebanon . It is also important to free men and women everywhere who are anxious for peace in this par of the world.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great honor to introduce to you Mr. Fouad Siniora, the Prime Minister of Lebanon

(Prime Minister's remarks)

Before ending this beautiful ceremony, allow me, Mr. Prime Minister, first to thank you, Ambassador Feltman and Mr. George Hage for the wealth of information you presented us and for your wise council. I also would like to thank our partner in Lebanon the American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and its President Mr. Salim Zenni and his team, all the US delegates who took the journey to be here. If it weren't for you this day will not have happened. I also want to thank Ms. Carla Jazzar, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Lebanon and Ambassador Charbel Whebe, the Consul General of Lebanon in Los Angeles for their unstinting support of this mission. Many thanks for the hard work of Mr. Amin Nehme, the representative of the Lebanese American Renaissance Partnership in Lebanon and his team.

Thank you very much and God bless you all.