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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Excerpts of Speech Delivered in Dearborn by Councilman John Akouri on the Third Anniversary of the Hariri Assassination

Photo courtesy of Bassam Mourad/Michigan Arab Times
H.E. Rafic Hariri Commemoration Speech
Byblos Banquet Center, Dearborn, Michigan
Sunday, February 10, 2008 / 5:00 PM EST
Good Evening and thank you Adnan for that kind and gracious introduction.
Consul General of Lebanon, Your Excellency Bachir Tawk, Imam Mohamad Mardini, Honorable Judge David Turfe, Senator George Hart, Commissioner Gary Woronchak, Councilman George Darany, President Joe Mourani and leaders from the Lebanese American Club of Michigan, President Walid Mourad and leaders from the United American Lebanese Federation, Mr. William Salaita and leaders from the Arab American & Chaldean Council, Mr. Nicola Abouzaid and parishioners of St. Sharbel Maronite Church and St. Rafka Maronite Mission, Mr. George Jalil Saad and members of the Antiochian Orthodox Community, Mr. Michel Abi Assaf and representatives of the Lebanese Forces, Executive Officials from the City of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, Assembled Dignitaries, Elected Officials, Members of the Arab Press Corps, Distinguished Guests, Fellow Lebanese-Americans - it is indeed an honor to appear before you again this year on this solemn occasion and I thank the organizers for inviting me.
I am extremely humbled this day to share the dais with the revered and admired Imam Mohamad Mardini of the American Muslim Center. Though I am not of your denomination Imam, I am of your faith. For the very same God that you worship, is my God. And the Lebanon that you so love is the exact same Lebanon that I love.
In our sacred Bible, we are taught that he who believes - never dies. He shall have eternal life. Rafic Hariri believed in God. Rafic Hariri believed in Lebanon. He believed in the people of Lebanon and in their future. He believed in the very foundation that created the Lebanon we know by insuring its inalienable right to absolute freedom, full sovereignty and total independence. The dream Rafic Hariri remains with each and everyone one of us and his spirit is alive and well and present among us.
I have shared with all of you in the past, my experiences with the late former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri upon his visits to Capitol Hill. The one resonating fact that is so apparent to all of us is his selflessness. He was not a selfish man. If he were, he would have taken his family and his fortunes long ago, and lived a peaceful and secure life outside of Lebanon.
Hence, I know that if he were here with us tonight, he would tell us to not only remember his martyrdom for the sake of Lebanon, he would tell us to also remember the sacrifices of Basil Fleihan, George Hawi, Gibran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Francios Hajj, Wissam Eid, Antoine Ghanem, Walid Eido and his son.
But he wouldn’t stop there, he would tell us to remember Bachir Gemayel, Dany Chamoun, Musa Sadr, Rene Mouawad, Rashid Karame, and the beloved Grand Mufti Hassan Khaled, and so many tens of thousand more who have suffered and died all for Lebanon. These names are engrained in our vernacular and it is incumbent upon us to keep all of them in our thoughts and prayers today when we say:
Dear God, we pray to you for peace in the Middle East
For the martyrs and their families our beloved Lebanon
For the victims of violence everywhere
For those struggling for peace and justice
For a world without war and violence
Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth;
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace,
Let peace fill our beings, our world and our universe.
My friends, we Lebanese are known for many great things. Stubbornness, however, is not one of them. But that's what makes us who we are. I know that a number of opinions exist in the diaspora and in Lebanon today. And I am confident that thought some Lebanese may not be able to agree on who the enemy is, we can agree on who the enemy is not. Each other. We are not each other's enemies. We agree on far more than we disagree on. We share a common blood and bond. And in Lebanon, Christians cannot exist without Muslims, and Muslims cannot exist without Christians otherwise the very Lebanon that we know and love would cease to exist.
Pope John Paul II, on his visit to Beirut in the late nineties, said: "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message." And part of that message here today is whether we say "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim" or "Bismil-Ab wal-Ibn wa-Ruuh al-'Uddus," we are undeniably Lebanese brethren. We can all appreciate the Papal message, and most certainly the message that Lebanon is.
And let's take a moment today to say thank you to our own government here in the United States for its continued support of Lebanon. How fortunate we are that our country chooses to aid the people, army and government of Lebanon. It's unwavering support for Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty and independence has been absolute. I thank our government for all it has done and continues to do for our families in Lebanon. For the funds distributed by USAID throughout all of Lebanon - especially the south, in aiding the Lebanese people.
Thank you President Bush. Thank you for keeping the flame of Lebanon alive and well in your heart during your administration. This is the message that we send today. And why wouldn't we want to share with our relatives and families overseas all that this great nation of America has bestowed upon our parents, our grandparents and continues to bless us with today by showering us with opportunity, freedom, education and success.
In closing, as throngs of Lebanese will gather this week in Beirut's Martyrs Square, let us add our voices and our hearts to the cause of justice, unity and freedom spread across every inch of Lebanon's 10,452 km2. Let us continue to work together from abroad for this new Lebanon and for the future of all proud Lebanese worldwide. Long live Lebanon and its people.

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">