On February 27th, 2011 I was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Civic Services from Our Lady of Mount Lebanon, Saint Peter Cathedral.
I was humbled by the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Sandri and His Excellency Bishop Shaheen.
No words can truly express my gratitude to those who have recognized me and awarded me with this great honor, nonetheless I hereby share my acceptance speech in an attempt to describe, in my own words, what this honor means to me:
Your Eminence Cardinal Sandri, Your Excellency Bishop Shaheen, and all of you, Honorable Ladies & Gentlemen – which makes everybody present here; A good friend of mine, a very wise gentleman, told me once, when I was the first Lebanese to be honored by the House of Lebanon, that only when you are recognized and honored by your own People, you truly realize that you have really succeeded in your visions, in the causes for which you fight and in your deeds”.
And here I am, being once more honored by my own People. This time, by the Maronite Church, to which I proudly belong.
Every Maronite knows and should always remember that being Maronite is synonymous with being Lebanese. Though we belong to the Eastern Rite, we are an integral part of the Catholic Church. We can pray, marry and baptize in any Catholic Church in the world.
The reason, nonetheless, for which the Maronites, everywhere in the diasporas, keep on erecting their own Churches and building their own Institutions, is to keep their relationship to Lebanon alive, therefore expressing their profound and unconditional attachment to the country of their ancestors. The Maronite Church is not only a creed and a religious affiliation, but also an identity. Being Lebanese however, does not mean that you are a Maronite. Lebanon is, in fact, a pluralistic and multi-confessional Democracy where all are equally Lebanese; but, being a Maronite always means that you are a Lebanese, at least spiritually.
It is, therefore, our sacred duty, the duty of each one of us, to make sure that Lebanon continues to exist as an Independent and Democratic Country. Not only because of our great love for Lebanon, but also for the existence of our Church, the Maronite Church.
Lebanon has gone through a lot of turmoil throughout its history, both ancient and modern; but, thank God, it has continued to exist because of its people’s will and love and because of the Diaspora’s attachment to the motherland, its support and assistance, irrespectively of the different regions or religions to which its members belong. As we all know, most of us here today are part of the Lebanese Diaspora which is spread all over the world.
The reason for which Lebanese have excelled wherever they went, regardless of their number, succeeding outstanding achievements in business, politics, health, science and education, is because they always understand and assimilate the values and the traditions of the Countries that have hosted them. I have faith in our people. It is faith grounded in experience. If you doubt me, just look around you to see proof of our strength and ingenuity. Nowhere is this more true than here in America.
One of the greatest and most successful Lebanese communities in the Diaspora is the one of the United States of America, the greatest and most influential country in the world. Lebanon owes a lot to the United States. The American People have always assisted Lebanon and supported its cause, regardless of the Government they had and the Leaders they elected. For this, the Lebanese, whether in Lebanon or around the world, will always be thankful to the American People. The American understanding and support have always been crucial to Lebanon and helped us, as well, to preserve the many values we share.
Throughout my life, I have sought to place the dignity of our Community and human beings at the center of everything I did. Preserving our Maronite heritage and securing real and lasting improvement in our lives are the measures of all what we should always do. It is in this spirit that I humbly and proudly accept today the Acknowledgment granted in favor of a Lifetime achievement for Civic Services, from Our Lady of Mount Lebanon, Saint Peter Cathedral.
This homage has no parade, no pantheon of victory. It is a simple and noble message of growing mutual understanding that human diversity, whether in Lebanon or elsewhere, is both the reality that makes dialogue necessary, and the very basis for that dialogue, a message that I will always carry and relish. No one knows, better than the honorable members of this community, that this recognition is also the symbol and the expression of our will to promote our noble cause, the one that needs the genuine support of genuine friends, of people with the courage to promote change toward achievements despite all obstacles.
We, therefore, need deeds that respect our promises, honor our commitments, achieve our goals, and never lose our own identity, as Maronites and loyal citizens.
Once more, Lebanon is, at the present time, experiencing difficult and perilous moments. May the men and women who hold the destiny of our people in their hands, avoid anything that might cause the present situation to deteriorate and become even more dangerous. May they take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul:
“If it be possible, live peaceably with all men”.
I want to add that the Lebanese People, irrespective of their Religion and Faith, have at least two things in common: they all love Lebanon, and they all believe in one God. Inspired by our ideals and convictions, we can achieve our goals. We would have done our best to serve Lebanon and make it a peaceful Nation, where we will live in harmony with all our fellow citizens, for the sake of Lebanon and the perennial existence of our Church.