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U.S. Diplomats Honored Arab Americans of the Year by ACCESS

posted on: May 4, 2012


Ambassadors Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt and Edward M. Gabriel accepted awards as 2012 Americans of the Year on Saturday at the largest Arab American dinner in the nation.

ACCESS, the largest Arab American human services nonprofit in the United States, bestowed the awards on the former diplomats in front of nearly 2,000 supporters at the organization’s 41st anniversary annual dinner. ACCESS makes the prestigious awards to spotlight the achievements of accomplished Arab Americans.

“The ACCESS annual dinner celebrates the achievements of the community, its thousands of supporters and volunteers and hundreds of employees,” said ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber. “We honor Arab Americans whose success has improved the world in which we live.”

In accepting the awards, the recipients-both children of Lebanese immigrants — said the strong values of their Arab heritage helped their achieve success.

Roosevelt comes from the mountains of Tennessee. She graduated at the top of her class at Vassar College, where she studied international relations. In 1950, she married Archibald Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, and balanced her busy career as a journalist with the demanding life as an embassy wife.

In 1982 President Ronald Reagan named her chief of protocol. For seven years, Roosevelt organized official dinners and state receptions, accommodations and entertainment for more than 1,000 delegations of world leaders. She traveled with President Reagan and Secretary of State George Schultz, and was responsible for 30,000 members of the foreign diplomatic corps.

Roosevelt also supervised a six-year renovation of the Blair House, the official Washington guesthouse for diplomatic visitors. In February, President Barack Obama recognized her unique contributions with a presidential commendation.

Gabriel grew up in Olean, NY, where his family roots were planted firmly in the Maronite church. After losing his father at a young age, Gabriel worked as a newspaper boy and construction worker to put himself through school. He became the first executive director of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, helping Native Americans achieve control over their own resources.

In the 1980s he launched a public affairs firm dealing with multilateral energy policy, and in the 1990s was at the forefront of strategic counseling for technology and energy concerns. In 1997, he accepted President Clinton’s nomination as Ambassador to Morocco. For more than three years, Gabriel established a trusting relationship with King Hassan II, leveraged U.S. aid to Morocco and tripled Morocco’s trade with the United States. He also influenced a major policy change on the strategic issue of Western Sahara sovereignty.

Today, Gabriel volunteers on nonprofit boards and advises corporations and government on the Middle East and North Africa. He is a founding member of the American Task Force on Lebanon, working to ban cluster bombs and establish better bilateral relations.

Ambassadors Roosevelt and Gabriel join a long list of Arab American VIPs to become recipients of this distinguished award. Past awardees include Nobel Prize winner Ahmed Zewail, financier Peter Tanous, actors Jamie Farr and Tony Shalhoub, and U.S. Gen. George Joulwan.

Grounded in the Arab American tradition of hospitality, Dearborn-based ACCESS has a 41-year history of providing health, education, employment and social services in greater Detroit to empower people to lead healthy, informed, productive lives. Today, ACCESS extends that mission to a national platform through advocacy, arts, culture and philanthropy. Visit us online at

Dearborn Press & Guide