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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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Full Text of Speech Delivered by John Akouri, Keynote Speaker at the Inaugural Northern Lebanese American Society Dinner Banquet at Byblos Centre

(29MAY, 2009)...Your Excellency, the Consul General of Lebanon Bachir Tawk, Former City of Mount Clemens Chief of Police Joseph Macksoud, Honorable Judge David Allen, Senator George Hart, United American Lebanese Federation President Walid Mourad, President Mike Mouhajer and Members of the Board of Directors, distinguished members of the press corps, honored guests, descendants of Northern Lebanon, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen. The Lebanese reputation for hospitality is known worldwide and I thank you for your kind and warm welcome. It is indeed an honor to be invited to this reception and I feel privileged to address this energetic northern Lebanese audience, on this inaugural banquet of the Northern Lebanese American Club. I wish to extend to all of you my sincerest greetings to you and your families in honor of this celebration.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to take a moment to recognize one of my dearest friends and a pillar in our community. I feel blessed whenever I have the distinct opportunity to share in his presence and we are forever grateful for his continued leadership and spiritual guidance. I am speaking of the great Imam Mohamad Mardini, and what an honor it is for me personally to be with you again, especially at this evening’s banquet. Imam Mardini, you are a diamond in a field of zirconium, a patriotic American, and a true Lebanese, and I am glad you are here tonight.
This evening’s inaugural banquet is more than just a celebration it is also a tribute. It is a tribute to many people. First and foremost, it is a tribute to the leaders of the Northern Lebanese American Club who work tirelessly in their efforts to preserve our ancestral culture, heritage and northern way of life. I wish to commend them for what they have done for our community, which is so duly reflected here this evening.
Additionally, I regard this evening as a tribute to America, and the over 3 million Americans of Middle Eastern descent with the majority being Lebanese. American society today, with its multiculturalism and the American spirit of accepting people of different cultural origins is widely admired. Indeed, in this respect, the United States is a model for other nations. As an American of Lebanese descent, I am inspired and proud that so many Americans of Lebanese ancestry are playing such an active and valuable role in American society today. Lebanese Americans are leaders in virtually every aspect of American life - arts, business, academics, politics, athletics, diplomacy, media and many others.
Finally, I look upon this evening as a tribute to the entire Lebanese American community. As tragic as the last three decades our beloved Lebanon has endured, our determination and perseverance was able to bring about an integration that ultimately strengthened our community here in the Detroit metropolitan area, unifying Lebanese Americans and ultimately inspirational for other communities in the United States. In meeting and overcoming those challenges, we must be mindful of the lessons of the past, while planning together for our future and the generations of Lebanese Americans to come.
"My personal love of Lebanon stems from the upbringing I had from the staunchest, proudest and most loyal Lebanese I know – my father Fouad."
My personal love of Lebanon stems from the upbringing I had from the staunchest, proudest and most loyal Lebanese I know – my father Fouad. A longtime leader and activist in Lebanese politics both here and abroad, and a friend to many of Lebanon’s Presidents and political leaders. This ring that you see on my finger was recently bestowed upon me by my father. Prior to his departure from Tripoli in 1955, my father with his meager savings purchased from a jeweler this custom made ring which so proudly displays the Cedar. He carried it with him on the ship that transported him to America, as a reminder of his youth in his native country. For me, this is worth more than all the gold in the world. It carries such meaning and love from Lebanon’s greatest export.
In fact, as many of you know, my father has an incredible singing voice, and as a boy, I remember him telling me that when he was growing up in Tripoli, he would be asked by Priests and Imams to recite verses from both the Bible and the Koran. This is the manner in which I was raised. And I thank him for his wisdom, insight and teaching me his love for our ancestral homeland and I ask you to join me in recognizing my father Fouad this evening.
In reflecting upon the history of our young Republic, the political strife, uncertainty, and wars the Lebanese have withstood, stand out as defining moments and events. In that regard, it is sad to recall that this tragic and devastating time caused great suffering and misery to many a people in such a small nation of only 10, 452 km. The Lebanese, and those of us with roots in Lebanon however, are a resilient people, who have overcome much throughout the centuries and continue to do so.
Sure there are some things wrong with Lebanon today, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that’s there’s a great deal of things right with Lebanon. I can’t help but think what our Lebanese Ambassador to the United States Antoine Chedid shared with us during his recent visit to Michigan. He reminded us that Lebanon is the only country in the Middle East to have 'living' former Presidents.
So let us then, as Americans of Lebanese origin, unite in strengthening our community at home here in America. But let us also unite in strengthening abroad our country of origin, Lebanon, for generations to come. Let us work together on this never-ending journey of the Phoenix we refer to as Lebanon. Let us strengthen our might, our will and our determination with clear victories that we can all agree on.
"When the current occupation of Lebanon is replaced with occupations for Lebanese students graduating from some of the finest universities in the world - to stop them from leaving Lebanon and creating a brain drain – this will be a divine victory!"
Let us declare liberation when vengeance, hatred, divisions, and revenge are lifted and removed from the hearts and minds of the Lebanese people.
All of Lebanon will be liberated when factions, militias, private armies, mercenaries, strongholds and thugs lay down their weapons in support of a central government elected by the people and only the people.
When we witness the immediate and unconditional release and return of all Lebanese detainees, Prisoners of War & those Missing in Action who are currently being held in Syria - some for over 30 years, this will really be a true liberation!
When we cease to require foreign influence for internal negotiations and all accords, pacts and treaty’s created for the Lebanese, of the Lebanese and by the Lebanese are no longer made in Cairo, Taif, Damascus or Doha but instead are made in Tripoli and Bikfaya and Saida and Jouneh, this will be a true liberation!
Sure we have had some minor setbacks, but we can also claim many victories. So let us declare right here and now to work for even more victories:
When Leaders sit together at a table, and stop thinking about their position, their colors, and the sound of their voice, and start thinking about the children of Lebanon, their future and the next generation, this will be a divine victory!
When safe and secure borders with Lebanon's neighbors, are achieved, coupled with respect of Lebanon's sovereignty and an end to Syrian interference in Lebanese matters, this will be a divine victory!
When there is full respect for the Lebanese Constitution, the Lebanese Army, and all Lebanese institutions, and when legitimacy and authoritative real powers are restored to the office of President including veto power, this will be a divine victory!
When injustice ends and justice prevails to the treacherous hands responsible for senseless assassinations, kidnappings, tortures, explosions and the taking from us of our beloved Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassan Khaled, Kamal Jumblatt, President Bashir Gemayel, Maya Gemayel, Pierre Gemayel, Imam Musa Sadr, Gebran Tueni, and so many others, this will be a divine victory!
When the current occupation of Lebanon is replaced with occupations for Lebanon and the Lebanese students graduating from some of the finest universities in the world - to stop them from leaving Lebanon and creating a brain drain – this will be a divine victory!
When ghosts of the past that linger throughout the streets of Lebanon disappear and we return to a time when Christians and Muslims celebrate Christmas and Ramadan together, this will be a divine victory!
When UNIFIL is dismantled, the Palestinians return home, we have sacrificed our last martyr, and Lebanon resumes its rightful place as the Paris of the Middle East, this will be truly be a shining divine victory!
Tonight as I deliver this message to you, I solemnly salute each and every Lebanese who embraces the sense of Independence as an inherent right and duty AND in the current international climate will - with all his means - advocate for the pursuit of a truly free, sovereign and independent Lebanon.
Again, I wish you all an enjoyable evening as you inaugurate this tremendous organization. From the north to the south, long live our beloved land of the Cedars and its people, wherever they may reside. May God bless our United States of America, the greatest nation on earth, and may she continue to shine as a beacon of hope and democracy for the entire world to see.

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">