Wadi’ D. Haddad, Ph.D.
Retired Director and Deputy Corporate Secretary of the World Bank
And Former Chief Advisor to the President of Lebanon for National Affair
Global South - Washington DC
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
It is a great pleasure for me to participate in the book signing activity for Walid Maalouf’s Book. I have known Walid for more than twenty years and have always appreciated his activism, drive, optimism and determination in serving both Lebanon and the United States. Walid is a self-made man with a lot of help from his wife Janet.
I am proud of him and was honored to write the foreword to his book which we are celebrating this afternoon. The theme of this panel, "Lebanese American role in Promoting Peace and Development in Lebanon" is very apropos to this occasion. This theme can easily serve as a subtitle of Walid’s book and a mission statement of his life.
My remarks are not meant to prescribe Lebanese American role, but rather to provoke thinking. I will limit these remarks to six brief points:
1. Peace and development go hand in hand.
- Without peace development cannot be achieved, and
- Without development peace cannot be sustained
2. Many Lebanese Americans can make a critical contribution to peace in Lebanon, and they are in an advantageous position to do so. Peace requires an acceptance of others, a deep faith in democracy, a commitment to the rights of all citizens, and a sophisticated process of dialogue and diplomacy. Lebanese Americans have been nurtured by a culture that values and stresses these attributes. They can inject into the discourse here and in Lebanon, by words, deeds and example, essential elements of rationality, open-mindedness, pragmatism and intellectual honesty.
3. In the same manner, the American Lebanese community is blessed with many who have the knowledge and skills in the area of social and economic development, and a realistic understanding of the Lebanese problems and possibilities. The Lebanese state and the donor community (including the US administration) can benefit from their experience in strategic planning, program development, creation of business and employment opportunities, and capacity building.
4. Despite their cognitive and experiential potential, Lebanese Americans will NOT be able to contribute to peace and development in Lebanon if they mirror in their lives and positions the Lebanese society with its blind partisanship, damaging prejudices, consuming hatred, zero-sum games, and ruthless struggle for power.
5. I wrote in the Foreword to Walid’s book the following:
“Lebanese Americans are very fortunate that this country has opened its doors to them, embraced them with safety, calmed their hearts, provided education for them and their children, and offered them opportunities for advancement. What is probably most important is that it never asked any of them to deny their motherland or to make a choice between two loyalties. On the contrary, it allowed them to continue to love Lebanon, yearn for its spirit, and dream of returning someday to it. On the other hand, the Lebanese government and leaders are expected to understand that Lebanese Americans are also American citizens and not “agents” and that their loyalty to their adopted country should not be construed as “treason” to their motherland.”
Having two loyalties can sometimes be tricky and problematic. In as much as we love Lebanon and value its interests, we need to always consider the interests of the United States as our boundary condition. In this context, Lebanese Americans will do a great disservice to this country if, in their enthusiasm to serve the interests of Lebanon or their Lebanese parties and communities, they propagate arguments of hatred and revenge, and agendas of partisanship and self-interest.
6. Finally, Lebanon seems to be a hopeless case. Its people are terrorized, its politicians are engaged in self-destruction, and its economy is in recession. Is there hope? It depends. A Lebanese American community, committed to a democratic, pluralistic, stable and free Lebanon, may prove to be the hidden source for Lebanon’s renaissance, the renewal of its spirit, the modernization of its ethos, and the revitalization of its economy.