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Rep. Ray Lahood to Receive 2008 Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service at AAI's Kahlil Gibran Awards Gala

posted on: Apr 23, 2008

The Arab American Institute (AAI) and Arab American Institute Foundation (AAIF) will honor U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois at the 10th annual Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards gala on Wednesday, April 23 in Washington, D.C.

LaHood will receive this year’s Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service, presented annually to an Arab American who has excelled in public service while displaying strong and visible pride in his or her heritage. Sen. John E. Sununu of New Hampshire will present the award to LaHood, who is retiring from Congress after representing the 18th District of Illinois for seven terms.

LaHood’s experience inside and outside of the legislature as a former schoolteacher and long-time community leader give him a unique perspective on his role as a member of Congress. With a deep respect for the institution of Congress and a reputation for working across party lines to achieve policy goals, he has led efforts to establish higher levels of civility, decorum, and cooperation in the House of Representatives. His experience in Congress and bipartisanship have been recognized by the House leadership, as he has been called upon numerous times to chair the House of Representatives during proceedings on contentious issues

As the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, LaHood visited Lebanon 13 times during his tenure in Congress, nurturing relations with the Lebanese government and businesses leaders. Early in his Congressional career, LaHood successfully worked with other Arab American members of Congress to persuade President Clinton to lift the travel ban to Lebanon. He has also been a champion for the increase in American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) funding to universities in Lebanon.

The award is named in honor of the late Najeeb Halaby, father of Her Majesty Queen Noor al-Hussein, who served as CEO of Pan American World Airways in the late 1960s and early 1970s and headed the Federal Aviation Administration under President Kennedy. LaHood is the fifth recipient of the award, joining Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, former Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan, former White House Chief of Staff and New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, and former Lexington, Ky. Mayor Teresa Isaac.

Other award recipients and presenters at this year’s gala include Refugees International (Award for International Commitment), Reporters Without Borders (Award for Institutional Excellence), the Barenboim-Said Foundation (Special Recognition), actor and Refugees International board member Sam Waterston, and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star Rami Khouri.