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Mr. Ghassan Salameh accepts the ATFP award for Excellence in Business, at the ATFP Fifth Annual Gala, Washington D.C., October 20, 2010.


Task Force Board members
Ladies and gentlemen

I am very humbled to be part of this outstanding group of honorees, their achievements and contributions are unbelievable.

When Dr. Asali informed me of the award, I felt a range of emotions: pride, joy, excitement, and a touch of fear…
Yes a touch of fear.

Six years ago, after 32 years in this country and only after I made Sr. Partner, I finally got the courage to publicly admit that I am Palestinian American. The fear of being labeled of being stereotyped, the fear for my kids, and the fear for my job stopped me from coming out - and for years I was tormented by it.

I want to thank Ziad and the work he and many of you are doing to give people like me the courage to be unafraid, to be proud to be Palestinian American, to be able to openly speak about the suffering of Palestinians, and at the same time be a loyal U.S citizen who cares deeply about this great country.

A Japanese poet once wrote “The world grows stronger as each story is told". And my story is similar to that of many here tonight and other Palestinians in countries around the world who were uprooted and forced to find new homes.

My parents fled Palestine to Lebanon in 1948, my dad lost both his eyes in a tragic accident shortly thereafter. So my Mom suddenly had to become the head of our household, care for four boys, and my father, and take responsibility for our survival. And… Like many other Palestinian refugees, we relied on the United Nations for schooling, and a monthly allotment of food, clothing and other essentials. My Mom also worked as a seamstress doing piecemeal work, and my oldest brother had to quit school at 15 to work full time.

In 1972, and barely 20 I left home and came to the U.S to study. I put myself through college, helped my family immigrate and settle here. And after 38 years of hard work, my old family, and my new family are living the American dream.  But the real dream we want to see is for all Palestinians to have a home of their own.

I feel very fortunate, privileged and honored to be receiving this award. I would not have been able to make it without the help and generosity of many people and institutions. As Secretary Clinton has said, it takes a village… it really does take a village.  In my case it takes a whole country, this country, to make me who I am today.

I am so thankful and appreciative, and unbelievably proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. I am absolutely certain that there is no other place on earth where someone like me, the son of Palestinian refugees growing up below the poverty line, dependent on the United Nations for food, shelter, education and survival can make it to the top of one of the most prestigious companies in the world, and be honored by you tonight.

And for that I am very grateful.

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