Saturday, November 13 was a night to reflect and to celebrate at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn as the Lebanese Student Association (LSA) of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor held its Lebanese Independence Day Gala.
The organization, which also gave away two scholarships on the evening, partnered with a wide variety of Arab American student groups at universities across the state and other organizations to help make the evening a success in celebration of Lebanon’s upcoming November 22 Independence Day. The date will mark the 67th year of the country’s independence from France.
Dr. Clovis Maksoud, the current Director of the Center of the Global South at American University in Washington, D.C., who has served as a lawyer, journalist, and a diplomat in various roles, called for unity among the younger generation of Lebanese and Lebanese Americans during his keynote speech in front of a diverse group of Lebanese American students and community members from various educational and religious backgrounds.
“You are the custodians of a new era of Lebanon, which has for 67 years been the anchor of the soul,” Maksoud said.
Maksoud said that he has learned a great deal from the younger generation of Lebanese and Lebanese American students, saying that he often learns more from them than he teaches them.
He said he has high hopes for the younger generation moving forward even as the country faces challenges and tensions.
“Self-criticism is a must for the newer generation and our generation has failed in that respect,” Maksoud said.
“We have been fragmented by sectarianism and this is a shame; you must assert your Lebanese Arab identity and celebrate diversity as (poet Kahlil) Gibran said.
“The crudeness of the challenge that Israel presents to us is that Zionism is a replica of our own sectarianism. We have a chance to be the civilization that is the answer to that with our diverse citizenship, and it is important that we undertake these responsibilities.”
Maksoud also criticized American President Barack Obama’s desire to freeze settlements in the West Bank of Palestine, saying that it is just an excuse to deflect attention from the need to dismantle them.
He added that the Arab and Muslim worlds are seeing a healthy amount of anger, not hatred, and that anger should be used as a catalyst to debate and correct the problems thrust upon the region, especially by Zionism.
Students also came together on the evening to sing the Lebanese national anthem after the American national anthem was sung in a moving display before the LSA’s two scholarship winners were announced.
The evening wrapped up with dabke dancing and performances by local/multinational singer JAD and Canadian Lebanese superstar Karl Wolf.
The scholarship awards from the LSA went to Carine Nahed and Fatima Fahs as part of a unique “students helping students” initiative undertaken by the organization. Nahed is a freshman in pre-med at UM-Ann Arbor whom Fares lauded for her outstanding transcript and Fahs is also in pre-med at Wayne State University. Fahs’ major is Honors Biology with a minor in Art.
LSA President Zena Fares talked about the scholarship awards given out by her group.
“We all know that Arab Americans are passionate about education and it’s the only way we’re going to move forward,” she said.
“We feel that it is our social responsibility to help not just ourselves but to help others, we need to unite and help each other as students.”
Fares thanked the supporting students and other organizations and said that the turnout of about 500 people was a gain of about 100 from the previous year.
“Everyone who attended the first one said it was a huge upgrade,” Fares said. “More importantly they were here to celebrate our heritage and Lebanon’s independence.”
For additional information on the LSA, please visit //www.umich.edu/~lebanese/.