Former Ambassador Clovis Maksoud
Global South - Washington DC
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
When Walid gave me his book, it triggered old memories. At my age, memories are the pivotal asset that we have. I remember when my late wife was president of the ADC, she met Walid, who became her banker, but lo and behold, Walid tapped me for one of his philanthropic endeavors -- that is the help for the Greek-Catholic Church construction in Kfarkatra. Since then, I realized how persuasive and determined is Walid Maalouf.
It just goes to show that while banking and philanthropy are great qualities, development is the way to fight poverty, achieve sustainable environmental cleanliness and enhance human participation. At the Center for Global South, here at the American University, we defined human rights as satisfying the political rights, the cultural rights, the social rights, but also the human needs as an integral part of human rights.
And in as much as Walid moved from banking and fundraising tapping us as individuals to the USAID programs, then he signals the spirit of generosity that overflows historically from the United States.
We’re all – my generation and subsequent generations – recipients of both the generosity that has manifested itself in the universities – especially the American University of Beirut, but also the hospitality that has enabled the Lebanese Americans to integrate not in an assimilative manner but in a contributive manner. Beginning with the cultural revolution at the historical beginning of the United States and now, with the Lebanese, Arabs, Jews, Moslems, Chinese and Latinos, etc., the United States is on the threshold of becoming not only a multi-cultural society but also a global nation. Not only in terms of global power but in global influence. And at this moment in our history, we are more in need of the persuasive influence of the United States than of its propensity to dictate.
The Lebanese Americans, Khalil Gibran, Ameen Rihani, Mikhail Naimy and many hundreds of others, have brought Lebanon to permeate the culture of America. Any American today in the mid-west, in Oklahoma, in Iowa – the minute you say “Lebanon” it resonates as if there is a subconscious commitment to Lebanon. Very few others assimilate this kind of resonance. Why? Because generations of Maaloufs, of which Walid is one, have invested in the United States not only as a country to belong to, but as a culture to enrich and be enriched by. Hence, the Lebanese community throughout the United States realizes that in order to take from the United States experience with dignity, we have to give generously.
The Lebanese American community has made many contributions to literature, to poetry, to development, to government service, to legislation; but basically to enhance the concept of Lebanon as a cultural, formative component of the United States influence. It is in this cross breeding of Lebanese experience, even in its most painful periods as it has experienced and continues to experience. It is the healing process of American values imparted to Lebanon at its moment of agony and to address the causes of agony and pain that we are all collectively and some of us individually experiencing. Lebanon, as the late Pope John Paul II said, is a concept as well as a reality. Its reality sometimes spares the negatives. Its concept ultimately overcomes its negatives. Of course everything is a dream, but the dream is not far-fetched because it is always positive and creative. The reality, at times is a destructive dimension, but the dream keeps Lebanon alive as an intellectual beacon to the Arab region and hopefully to the Lebanese Americans in the United States.