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Governor John Sununu
ATFP Inaugural Gala

October 11, 2006

Thank you very much, John. Let me just take advantage of the microphone. I know time is passing. But I do think this is a milestone event this evening. It really is and we should appreciate how significant it is. I cannot imagine my grandparents from Jerusalem, could ever think of such a gathering as this, which her grandson, their grandson and their great grandson would be participating like this - one an old governor, the other a young senator at a gala of Palestinian-Americans, in the District of Columbia, the capitol of the United States.

And so it is a milestone event and I would like to thank a number of people here. I would like to thank, first of all, Secretary Rice, for having come to this event. It is a very significant expression of the commitment that she and the president have to the Palestinian state, that she was here and articulated before us her commitment, in what I thought was a very moving speech. The fact that how special these times are and how she and the president are to try and move toward success in establishing a Palestinian state, in the days that they have left, in the next two years of their Administration. I would like to thank Senator Levin who has come tonight, because, like the Secretary of State, it is an expression from somebody that I respect that he has come to be a part of this milestone event and he certainly should know that we appreciate his presence here. I would like to thank Prince Turki, not only for being here, but for having presented in his speech a very clear explanation of the dilemma of moving toward a solution to the difficult issue between Palestine and Israel, underlining as he did, what I believe is the slight disconnect in the process that has been underway for a long time. There is an importance in sequence, as the Ambassador pointed out. And it is important for people to understand that tranquility will never come where there is an environment of occupation.

Of course I would like to thank Senator Sununu. He comes from good breeding stock, you know. I would like to thank him for being a great senator and a good son. I don’t know if you understand the two great hardships that he has to overcome in serving in a public life. Certainly these are not easy times for a young man and his family to participate in public life as and Arab-American, as a Palestinian-American. I know that although most of the time, it is a gratifying experience, there are those moments in which there is some difficulty. But the second challenge, the second most difficult challenge that he has, is that he has seven siblings who are the most aggressive lobbyists in the world. I just want him to know that the pressure that he receives from his family, notwithstanding, all of us, his siblings, his mother and I appreciate his commitment to serving his country and to respecting his heritage.

I would like to thank all of you for being here tonight, for having opened your wallets and participated in the process, and gathering together, as a group, because it is important that we continue to recognize and understand that the emotion that we show in front of our television sets does not shape policy. It is the reasoned and credible voices that we can convey when we come together that provides an impact. And in that context I would like to especially thank Ziad Asali and the American Task Force on Palestine. Make no mistake about it, until Dr. Asali made the commitment and the sacrifice to begin and develop this organization, there was truly not a single organization with a credible voice that could influence, at all, the policy of the United States on the Palestinian Issue, and Ziad has made a difference.

The American system is designed to be lobbied. Not withstanding what the press does not understand, the American system is designed to be lobbied. If all we do is criticize those who have different views for lobbying more effectively than we do, shame on us. What we must do is spend the time and the money to provide staff and support, to craft policy statements that are logical and consistent with a long range agenda that we care about, and that would be a benefit to the United States, and we have to have somebody carry that message in an unemotional, logical way. Therefore, your presence here tonight as a psychological support and as a financial support is absolutely crucial.

But let me tell you, it it is not enough. If all you do is think that you have done enough by being here, I thank you for being here, but I remind you there is more to be done. I urge you to understand that events like this, support like this, and the impact of ATFP, does not happen by accident. It happens because you continually support the organization. Let staff members be hired, let messages be crafted, and let distribution of information take place that helps the United States craft a policy in the right direction. There are those pulling on the other side of the rope who do it very well, and what we have to do is to begin to emulate that process, so that there is a fair and balanced tug on the rope, that will make a difference in a short period of time.

Having said all that, thank you very much to ATFP for the honor that you have bestowed on me tonight. Thank you all for becoming more active, being part of the process, and thank you John for participating in this award.

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