Remarks by Walid Maalouf

Middle Eastern American Convention
Washington, DC

Friday, October 01, 2004

Tonight is indeed a historic night. For the first time Middle Eastern Americans from different religious and ethnic backgrounds have gathered to celebrate your heritage, the freedom you desired and your successful lives in America . You are the perfect bridge for freedom & democracy between America and your ancestoral countries in the greater Middle East and North Africa .

Tonight I can say that President George W. Bush's new forward strategy of freedom for the Broader Middle East and North Africa has united all of you, all of us, for this must win cause. Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that the President is a uniter, not a divider.

I first met then Governor & Mrs. Bush here in Washington DC on Tuesday, June 22 1999 . It was a large gathering like this one, and, after a rousing speech, he came down from the stage to shake some hands and meet people. I was able to have a good spot right next to the dividing ropes. As the Governor reached me, I introduced myself and responded to his question about my heritage. He asked me questions about the Middle East , and I responded quickly thinking that he would want to move on. But no, Governor Bush kept asking me questions about the region and it seemed to me he new quite a lot. I could not believe the focus and the attention he gave to the subject. I instantly decided that this man would make a unique President, and I saw a bright light for the region through him, if he were to make it to the Presidency. His interest in the Middle East was genuine, and it sure got my attention.

When the Governor moved on to speak with other people, one of the guests, whom I did not know, came toward me and said: "It seems you know the Governor pretty well." When I asked, what had made him think so, he said: "Because he spent an awfully long time with you." (From his accent I knew that he was a Texan). I had been so involved in my discussion with him I did not realize the length of time he spent talking about the Middle East with me.

My friends, the new forward strategy of freedom in your ancestoral region is as important as Ronald Reagan famous phrase: "Mr. Gorbachov tear down this wall". President Bush is now tearing down all the walls and barriers that have slowed the advance of freedom, the advance of civil society, the advance of democracy, the advance of liberty and self-government, the advance of equality for women, and last, but not least, the advance of a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Three fundamental major achievements have taken place in accordance with the President's new policy in the region: 1. the liberation of Afghanistan from the oppressive Talaban regime. 2. The liberation of Iraq from the most lethal weapon of mass destruction -- Saddam himself and his Ba'ath party. 3. The passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 to win Lebanon back into the fold of democratic nations.

Another important and positive change toward a lasting peace in the region is that President George W. Bush put forward a road map to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict which was supported by those directly involved and by all the nations of the world. Don't forget that he is the first US President to call for the establishment of a Palestinian State living side by side in security, peace and prosperity with Israel .

These are historic times; change is taking shape. There is no turning back. I believe democracy will lead to peace, to great economic returns, to freedom of the self and the opportunity for personal achievement, to equality, security and self-determination for all the nations in the region.

My fellow Middle Eastern Americans when President Bush promises, President Bush delivers. And those of you who have met with the President and discussed your concerns agree with me that the President walks his talk.

In all the speeches about democracy in the broader Middle East and North Africa since November 2003 until today, President Bush has been extremely consistent in his position and in his vision for the region. Not only that, but he speaks of this great people of the Middle East and their religions, their cultures and their hopes, their aspirations and their desires and now he is speaking of their future.

Allow me to say few words in Arabic about George W. Bush the person:

He is humble and frank
He is dignified and proud
He is faithful to his people and allies
He is a man that believes in freedom for every soul
He realizes his responsibilities and the risks
George W. Bush is a clear decision maker

My friends this is what President George W. Bush said about your people, our people, my people:" In their need for hope, in their desire for peace, in their right to freedom, the peoples of the Middle East are exactly like you and me. Their birthright of freedom has been denied for too long. And we will do all in our power to help them find the blessings of liberty".

Thank you and May God keep the United States of America the beacon of freedom and democracy.