You have entrusted me with the leadership of one of the most important entities that define Arab Communities in North America. I take this charge very seriously. In this 41st year of its existence, NAAMA faces challenges that are unique and trying. Yet if we learn from our predecessors, we will be able to set the stage for a more prominent role for our Association and a more prosperous environment for the communities we represent.
As we serve as ambassadors for our fellow Arab residents originating from the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, let us follow the examples of people like us who originated in the MENA region yet left their marks in North America with a legacy that lifted our communities locally and in the homeland. Our history is replete with organizations that make us proud and that paved the road for our success. Let me single out one group that stands out in my mind. I am talking about The Pen League (القلمية الرابطة/al-Rābiṭah al-Qalamiyah).
When Nasib Arida and Abdul Massih Haddad (1915/1916) and Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mikhail Naimy’s and others (1920’s) established and consolidated this league, they had an important vision and an admirable mission. As Naimy himself said, their objectives were “to lift Arabic literature from the quagmire of stagnation and imitation, and to infuse a new life into its veins so as to make of it an active force in the building up of the Arab nations, and to promote a new generation of Arab writers.” I am asking as we reinvent ourselves to think like these visionaries and accomplish in health care what they achieved in literature. If we do, we will certainly be as successful as they were in preserving our identity, cherishing our roots, yet be grateful members of the societies that adopted us and gave us the opportunities we so fortunately enjoy. We should follow in the footsteps of these giants who warned us in the bylaws of their league that “clinging to the narrow bounds of the ancients in form and substance is a most pernicious tendency; if left unopposed, it will soon lead to decay and disintegration… To imitate them is a deadly shame… We must be true to ourselves if we would be true to our ancestors.”
We must continue to respect our heritage and our roots and we must continue to provide our families in the homeland with the support that they need. We must also grow locally, and become more relevant in our North American communities by establishing institutions that add to the diversity and richness of the American Society. Let us prominently display and celebrate our inherent and genuine values of giving and caring, values that are obscured by the treacherous actions of people who claim to be our kins but are as far from us as can be.
Working with my colleagues on the National Board of Directors, I intend to reach out to all of you and solicit your assistance and engagement to make NAAMA more relevant in our North American neighborhoods. Learning from the experiences of our literary heroes, let us make NAAMA visible, relevant and irreplaceable. This is how we endure. I need each and every one of you to be a member of my team.
Basim A. Dubaybo, MD