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Tenth Annual Kahlil Gibran "Spirit of Humanity" Awards Gala to Honor Refugees International, Reporters Without Borders for Commitment to Advocacy, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois, Barenboim-Said Foundation

posted on: Mar 20, 2008

The Arab American Institute Foundation (AAIF) will host the tenth annual Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards gala on Wednesday, April 23 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. This year’s gala will honor Refugees International for its advocacy on behalf of the world’s displaced people and its recent work on behalf of Iraqi refugees, and Reporters Without Borders for its courageous mission to promote press freedom worldwide.

“Law and Order” star Sam Waterston, a board member of Refugees International, will present the organization with the Award for International Commitment. Rami Khouri, editor of the Beirut-based Daily Star, will present the Award for Institutional Achievement to Reporters Without Borders. The organization’s founder, Robert Menard, will travel from Paris to accept the honor.

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois will receive the fifth annual Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service in recognition of his seven distinguished terms in Congress and his career long commitment to serving the public. The Barenboim-Said Foundation will receive special recognition for its programs to bring together young musicians from across the Middle East, a project begun by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward W. Said. Said’s widow, Miriam Said, will accept the recognition on behalf of the foundation.

Launched in 1999 by the Arab American Institute (AAI) and AAIF, the leading organizations in the promotion of the policy and community interests of Arab Americans, the awards gala focuses attention on acts of leadership that promote the common good and features prominent leaders from the diplomatic, business, philanthropic, and government sectors. The Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards are named for the renowned Arab American poet and author of The Prophet, whose message of human endurance and triumph was so evident in his life and work. This year’s honorees epitomize that message:

–Refugees International has worked tirelessly for more than 25 years to focus attention on and advocate solutions for the world’s more than 35 million displaced people and 11 million without a nationality. It is being recognized for its inspiring and life-saving work. Acting as a witness to the suffering of the displaced, Refugees International is able to translate its field interviews with war-affected populations, non-governmental organizations, and aid agencies into advocacy with decision makers that produces results.

–Reporters Without Borders is being honored for its advocacy on behalf of the rights and welfare of journalists, its support for freedom of the press, and its efforts to support the families of imprisoned journalists. Founded in 1985, Reporters Without Borders is now represented on all five continents. The organization is a founding member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a virtual network of non-governmental organizations that monitors free expression violations worldwide and defends journalists, writers, and others who are persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

–Rep. Ray LaHood is serving his seventh and final term representing the 18th District of Illinois. First elected in 1994, Mr. LaHood has carried on a rich tradition of leadership from a U.S. House district which has been represented by American leaders such as Robert Michel, Everett Dirksen, and Abraham Lincoln. Early in his Congressional career, Mr. 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 ASHA funding to universities in Lebanon.

–The Barenboim-Said Foundation grew out of the friendship between Daniel Barenboim, currently music director of the Staatsoper Berlin, and the late Edward W. Said, University Professor at Columbia University. Begun as a 1999 workshop in Weimar for young musicians from Israel and various Arab countries, the West Eastern Divan Orchestra was formed to combine musical study and performance with the sharing of knowledge and awareness between people from different cultures and backgrounds. The Foundation is grounded by the principle that music cannot be isolated from society. Its projects span across the Middle East with special attention to new programs for music education infrastructures in Palestine. These include the creation of a Palestinian Youth Orchestra, the Edward W. Said Music Kindergarten in Ramallah, and the Barenboim-Said Conservatory in Nazareth.

Past participants in the awards gala include former President Bill Clinton, Her Majesty Queen Noor al-Hussein, former President of Poland Lech Walesa, former Sen. George Mitchell, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, former professional boxer Muhammad Ali, and recording star Sting.

The Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards gala is the only annual event that supports the advocacy, research, and policy development that AAI and AAIF conduct throughout the year on behalf of Arab Americans nationwide.

The JW Marriot Hotel is located at 1331 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. in Washington, D.C. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m.; the gala dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. Click here for additional background and details on the gala on AAI’s website.