Idealists not Idealogues – NAAP 10 Year Anniversary

On November 11th, 2011, I had the honor and privilege at the NAAP-DC  10th Anniversary Celebration to give the keynote remarks focused on the future vision of the national network.

Congratulations NAAP on 10 amazing years of hard work, empowerment and selflessness!

Sarab at NAAP-DC 10thHere is a rough transcript of the speech:

Well thank you very much everyone, for a lovely, lovely evening. It is truly an honor to be among you all.

Its amazing to think back, to the early stages in 2001 and 2002, that have lead, as somebody has said before, to a national movement.

I’ve been asked to talk to you tonight about our vision – what is the NAAP vision? You’ve heard about the activities we’ve developed but I want to talk to you about what’s coming next. About what we’re looking forward to, in the near future.

Now for those of you who don’t know, the vision of NAAP is relatively simple yet very ambitious – we strive to develop a prosperous and influential community connected through our national network.

Two words to always remember, whenever you go around NAAP circles – prosperity and influence – this is what we work towards.

With this vision we’ve done amazing things to help direct the course of our community’s future…from building an empowered network of thousands to amplifying the calls for freedom in our mother countries… from Baltimore to Benghazi, from Houston to Hama, DC to Tahrir, from NY to Tagheer square NAAP members have truly been at the forefront of issues all around the globe, not just here in America, but the issues of our times.

Yes, we’ve always been ambitious bunch – we’ve been called idealists, but not ideologues – we are very grounded in the realities of the challenges that we face. But, because of this NAAP has always stood for the empowerment & advancement of our people – now is no different – especially now.

Inspired by millions, the ‘Arab spring’, has truly driven and focused us. For example, since January we’ve ensured to put the principles of freedom, human rights, democracy, equality and dignity AHEAD of our individual differences and we have organized our networks to amplify the democratic aspirations of our people.

The inspiration from our mother countries have truly inspired us to look to a future that was only a year ago, unimaginable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have spent a decade together helping empower our community…the next ten years our ambitious vision is about building on this foundation to achieve the true influence we aspire for…across all levels of society.

Now bear with me for a second as I try and paint a picture as to what this ambitious future looks like.

  • When we think of our future, we think of a future where blatant anti-Arab racism it deemed unacceptable in mainstream media and in mainstream political discourse
  • We see a future where non-Arabs actually take Arabic language classes for its pure richness of the language, not because they are on assignment for the FBI, or CIA
  • We see a future when hummus, falafel are not sold as ‘middle eastern’ products, but rather as Arab delicacies – when fattoush isn’t called Israeli salad in fancy restaurants to appease those who feel a little bit uneasy by the word ‘Arab’
  • We see a future when our children no longer have to change their names to avoid bullying in school, from Osama to Sam, Mohamad to Mo, from Fadi to my favorite, Freddy
  • This is a future when a women who wears the veil walks in for a job interview, she is not automatically excluded from the running
  • A future that we are working towards, when community members with access to elected officials consistently advocate for the community’s needs, community desires, and community interests, not what’s perceived to be appropriate to maintain access
  • We look to a future when politicians actually listen to us – because what we have to say is good for our community but good for humanity

So how will we get to there? As you’ve heard, NAAP has thousands of members, is a federation of 9 chapters under a broad national banner. We aim to be truly connected and have a presence everywhere there are Arab-Americans. We will continue to be grounded in our community needs and ensure we are accountable to our people – that’s why we organize, and for whom we organize for.

We’re going to focus on cultivating youthful leadership – through their innovation we will meet the challenges of tomorrow. We will strive for connectivity between our business & civil constituencies and connect them together as this is truly our power base and finally, flexing this collective muscle when advancing our issues and concerns.

Our ambition is grounded in our collective dreams and our real ability to channel them into reality…Yes, the challenges ahead of us are great, however our passion and will-to succeed is GRAND.

The only thing to stop us from achieving our ambition, and the end of the day, is us – its going to be hard work, but a lot of fun – we all have a role to play, and together we’ll ensure the next decade is more fruitful than the one we left behind… Thank you very much.

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