Following is fromer AFRP President Charlie Shamieh’s Annual Convention report presented during the convetion:
Good evening Deacon Joseph Harb, the Honorable Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Congressman Dennis Kuccinch and Ambassador Maen Areikat, distinguished guests and fellow convention attendees.
I would like to welcome you here tonight at our 52nd Annual Convention in Cleveland Ohio.
When I stood before you in San Francisco and accepted the job of serving as President of this unique organization, I began by quoting Kahlil Gibran, so it makes sense that I end my year with a quote by him. He wrote, “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but it advancing towards what will be.”
That idea of advancement and building further upon the foundation of this great volunteer Federation was very important to me. I considered it an honor to serve in this way. I would like to thank the dedicated Executive Director Search committee for their hard work and for taking seriously the job of finding a qualified person to be our first Executive Director. They have selected the attorney Abeer Zanayed as a person who has the capabilities to get our Federation to progress to the next level, especially in regards to fundraising to ensure the financial health of our organization. The idea of having an ED had been in the planning for the last few years, because it was clear to many that it would be crucial in moving our Federation forward so that it will become a fully functioning non-profit organization.
As the largest Palestinian-American organization in the country, our Federation has a unique place in the United States. It was my goal to strengthen our connection to our brothers and sisters back home during my year as President. One way I thought we could accomplish that was to have our annual Midyear meeting in Ramallah for the first time. It went better than we could have imagined. It was a heartwarming trip for many of our young people who used this opportunity to visit Ramallah for the first time and our elders to return, some for the first time since they immigrated to America.
The medical mission, where doctors from America generously volunteer their time to serve the enormous humanitarian needs of the Palestinians back home, was something we developed into a year-long program. I am continually inspired by the caring and commitment of these doctors, who leave their hectic jobs and lives in order not to vacation, but volunteer their time and expertise. Their services to the Palestinian community are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which they give for free. It is crucial that this program, as well as commitment to fundraising on the level our Federation deserves, continues in the future. The ED position will help insure this continuity.
We are creating a committee for developing a 5 year strategic plan for the Federation. I will be contacting different members in our communities to get their participation and input. We hope to tap into their experiences and professionalism as a means to enhance our progress in the future.
Our web site has been improving and now includes more materials. We are now posting HR magazine on it. I am very proud of the success of the Ramallah Memories project on Youtube, where the memories of our elders are being taped in an attempt to preserve our heritage and tell our stories. We hope that there will soon be representatives from every family included. Thanks to Dr. Maher Ghannam and Attorney David Ghannam for their vision and hard work in making this new program happen. I felt it was essential to back this project, because it is clear that if we do not tell our own stories and our own history, others will tell them for us.
I think we all feel blessed to have immigrated to the United States, where we have become part of the mosaic of immigrants from all over the world who are proud to call themselves Americans. We have benefited from being here in calculable ways. Arab-Americans have a higher education level and income than your average American. Our Ramallah community is no exception.
Most of us are quite successful in many fields such as education, business, arts and many other professional fields. But, it is important for us to give back to the less fortunate both in this country and Palestine. Our Federation, as a charitable organization, has been committed to helping in the educational and the medical fields. It is important that we maintain this policy and expand on it in the future.
I would like to express my deep appreciation for the many members of our communities for their help and dedication to insuring the success of the Federation, including those who opened their home to my wife and me as we traveled to the various communities throughout the year.
Special thanks to the Executive board for all their valued help and dedication throughout the year. Congratulations and appreciation to the Convention chairman Jacob Kash and his committees, Club President Issa Harb, his board members and the whole Cleveland Community for putting on this wonderful Convention.
I would like to congratulate our incoming President Johnny Rukab and his wife Joy. Johnny, I wish you the best of luck and you know you can count on my full support. Congratulation to our Deputy President Terry Ahwal Morris and her husband Bob.
I like to thank my son Joseph and his wife Natalie and my daughter Betty for their support. I must acknowledge my brothers and their families for giving me a year off work. And lastly, since you always save the best for last, I would like to thank my lovely wife Ghada who has been there for me all year. If it is not for her, I honestly could not have done it, Thank you honey.
In closing I would like to thank you for honoring me as the President of this great organization. You can count on my continued involvement and support. May God bless all of you and I hope you enjoy the rest of the convention.