ADC Convention: A Great Success

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's (ADC) 21st National Convention drew participants from around the world.  Approximately 2,000 persons took part in the four-day Convention held June10-13.  The theme, "Your Right, Your Vote, Our Future: Decision 2004" was reflected in the workshops, panel discussions, banquets, and conversations during the Convention.  Just under 30 exhibitors set up display tables at the Convention site and there was a two-day film festival.

THURSDAY, JUNE 10

As with previous years, the first day of the Convention was dedicated to making Arab-American voices heard on Capitol Hill.  In keeping with tradition, ADC's Day on Capitol Hill began with a preparatory meeting in the morning before the pre scheduled meetings with Members of Congress in their offices.

ADC continuously stresses the importance of these meetings. It is imperative for our community to show strength in numbers by holding meetings with your Members of Congress in their Washington, DC offices.  Nonetheless, you can and should still take the initiative, meet with your members in their home state office, and build a rapport.  For more information contact ADC's Deputy Director of Government Affairs Christine Gleichert at Christine@adc.org.

Following these meetings there was a reception held in the Rayburn Gold Room. Dale Kildee (D-MI), Barney Frank (D-MA), Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), and representatives from the office of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also came to the dinner reception. Back at the Convention site and much later that evening Ralph Nader gave an invigorating speech and held a book signing.

FRIDAY, JUNE 11

On Friday morning, ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish held a workshop entitled "Winning Arguments for Arab Americans" in which he outlined arguments on key issues that are convincing our fellow Americans.

The workshop also detailed ways in which grassroots mobilizing can bring Arab-American perspectives and balance to public broadcasting.  Later that afternoon, Ibish hosted a journalists' roundtable examining the failure of the media to view Administration claims about Iraq with any degree of skepticism, featuring Jim Fallows, Raghida Dergham, Andrew Cockburn, and Shaun Waterman.  There was also a panel discussion about Arab-American Literature.  Additionally, the directors of the movie "About Baghdad" held a discussion after the screening of their movie.  For more information on the films screened at the Convention, contact Laila Al-Qatami at laila@adc.org.

Demonstrating ADC's commitment to being part of the political landscape of the US, ADC President Mary Rose Oakar moderated the "Arab Americans in a Political Year" panel.  Further underscoring the need to have our voices heard in Congress, ADC held a workshop later that day entitled "Government Relations: Strengthening our Voices."

The ADC Legal Department also held two panels on Friday.  In the first panel, "From the Victims Mouth", four individuals, whom ADC has assisted in the past year, discussed their personal experiences.  These experiences ranged from immigration, airport and law enforcement profiling and a "Special Registration" case study.  This panel was crucial in describing real life experiences, which was covered by a number of Arabic-languages television stations. ADC also held a "Meet Your Federal Government" panel.

This panel afforded participants the opportunity to ask questions to the Federal Government representatives.  This panel was broadcast live on C-Span II. For more information, contact Nawar Shora at nshora@adc.org.

At the Friday Luncheon, R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General was the guest speaker.  Acosta paid special tribute to our late President Ronald Reagan, as he talked about  protecting the rights of religious minorities.

Later that evening, at the Friday Banquet the keynote speakers were Asa Hutchinson, Undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Teresa Heinz Kerry.  Awards were presented to Assad Jebara, Farouk Shami, and Dolores Huerta among others.

Hutchinson promised that DHS would eliminate the special registration program completely in the near future and pledged to deal with all travelers equally and without discrimination.  Heinz Kerry's presence highlighted John Kerry's continued commitment to working with the Arab-American community and fighting discrimination.  According to Heinz Kerry, "John will be committed to a strong America, where our nation's laws are enforced without resorting to discrimination." She added, "He has always supported strong hate crime laws, and he believes that the practice of racial profiling should be prohibited."

SATURDAY, JUNE 12

On Saturday morning, Civil Rights, the "State of the Arab World", "Perceptions of the US in the Arab World", "Women in the Arab World", the "Present Situation in Iraq", issues concerning "Academic Freedom", "Palestine Activism" and the always popular "Growing Up Arab American" were some of the panel discussions.  Workshops included, "How to Bring an Arab Film Festival to your City," and "Outreach to Law Enforcement and Schools."

A special discussion with the director of "Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land" Bathsheba Ratzkoff also took place.

Anthony Shadid, Washington Post reporter, former ADC intern, and 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner, was the Saturday luncheon speaker.  Shadid, who recently return from Baghdad, addressed the state of the occupation and Iraqi society from his vantage point as a foreign correspondent covering that situation.  Shadid also answered a number of questions from the audience.  Additionally, awards were presented to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and famed Arab-American actor Tony Shalhoub.

Energy was in the air as the banquet hall was filled to capacity on Saturday night. The esteemed Dr. Clovis Maksoud shared his thoughts with the convention and introduced Dr. Azmi Bishara was the Keynote speaker and the program included a special tribute to Edward Said featuring Mariam Said.  Bishara discussed the Israeli occupation of Palestine and how Arab Americans can help achieve a just and durable peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Awards were presented to fashion designer Joseph Abboud, Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh of DelMonte Fresh Produce and Carlos Ghosn of Nissan Motor Company.

SUNDAY, JUNE 13

On Sunday morning, "Palestine: Perception and Reality" was the only panel. ADC also held its members-only General Assembly meeting and an "Advocacy and Lobbying Workshop."  The Sunday Luncheon featured Helen Thomas.

Thomas, an Arab American, was introduced by Sam Donaldson.  Thomas has covered US Presidents, from Kennedy to Bush and her remarks including humorous anecdotes about each President.  Awards were presented to Mohammad Oweis, Hussein Ibish, ADC Michigan,(who received the Hala Maksoud Award presented by Dr. Clovis Maksoud.) Senator George Mitchell, and Helen Thomas.

ADC thanks all of you for helping to make this Convention a success. We hope to see you next year, which will mark 25 years since the founding of ADC.