American Task Force on Lebanon Annual Awards Gala Dinner
US Officials and Lebanese Americans Come Together to Support Lebanon
May 22, 2023
Congressman Garret Graves, recipient of the Philip C. Habib Award for Distinguished Public Service
Dr. Joseph Aoun, recipient of the Peter J. Tanous Founder’s Award
Mr. Ghassan and Mrs. Manal Saab received the Issam M. Fares International Leadership Award
Mrs. Lea Ghorayeb received the Peter J. Tanous Founder’s Award on behalf of The Mayyas
Guests attend the ATFL annual awards gala
The American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL), a leading organization of Americans of Lebanese heritage, hosted its annual awards gala dinner on May 18th at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, DC. The event attracted current and former US officials in Congress and the Administration, former leaders in the US military, current and former diplomats, business and civic leaders, and Americans of Lebanese descent who, together with ATFL, urgently call for Lebanon’s leaders to prioritize the needs of the Lebanese people above their own interests.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, Victoria Nuland, addressed the audience saying, “Secretary Blinken and all of us at the State Department are proud to be long-time partners of the American Task Force on Lebanon. You truly represent the gold standard in diaspora support." During the evening, several individuals were honored for their leadership and contributions to the US and Lebanon.
Congressman Garret Graves, US Representative, 6th District of Louisiana, received the Philip C. Habib Award for Distinguished Public Service. After accepting his award, Congressman Graves said, "I look forward to working with all of you to truly ensure that the great inspiration that I saw in my grandfather is able to be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Dr. Joseph E. Aoun, President of Northeastern University, received the Peter J. Tanous Founder’s Award. “In other places, the diaspora played a big role in launching higher education and launching industries,” remarked Dr. Aoun. “I believe that if it can be done in Bangalore, it can be done in Beirut. The Lebanese people will prevail.”
The Mayyas, an alternative dance crew and winner of America’s Got Talent, Season 17, also received the Peter J. Tanous Founder’s Award. Lea Ghorayeb of the Mayyas said, “Dance has taught us discipline, hard work, and perseverance. These are the qualities that have helped us achieve success; not just as dancers, but also as people." She added, "We hope to continue to empower women to take control of their own lives, and to create a world where women are appreciated for their talents, skills and contributions, where we are able to move freely not just on stage, but on the streets and in our homes as well.” Ghorayeb concluded: “We promise to keep going, keep fighting, and keep dancing.”
Mr. Ghassan Saab, CEO of Sorenson Gross Company, and Mrs. Manal Saab, CEO of SGCS, received the Issam M. Fares International Leadership Award.
“Our civic engagement in this country is obviously to contribute to society. We also hope that what we do raises Lebanon’s name high in America,” said Mr. Saab. “In Lebanon, however, we do what we do to help the people of Lebanon restore their dignity during excruciatingly difficult times.”
Mr. Saab added: “I will always preach about helping Lebanon to whoever will listen. Never, ever, ever give up on Lebanon. No matter the wait, Lebanon will rise again.”
The honorees highlighted the importance of ATFL’s leadership in fostering a strong US response to the urgent needs of the Lebanese people. ATFL’s leadership noted the challenges that lie ahead as well. They emphasized ATFL’s continued commitment to encouraging the US and its allies in the international community to push for timely solutions to Lebanon’s most pressing problems so that the country can move toward recovery.
“The Lebanese people need urgent sustainable programs that guarantee affordable, clean energy and water, a banking system that protects their life savings, and education and health services that once defined the best of what Lebanon had to offer,” said Ambassador Ed Gabriel (ret.), President of ATFL.
The Hon. Spencer Abraham, Chairman of ATFL, remarked, “What the Mayyas and all of us in this room share in common is that no amount of adversity can stand in the way of a determined Lebanese.” He added, “Now imagine the heights the Lebanese people could reach with a functional government and stable economy. This is our vision for Lebanon. This is why we are here tonight.”