Prominent Michigan Accident Attorney Joumana Kayrouz keynotes the opening day of the 3rd Annual Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in Beirut, Lebanon on May 5, 2016, urging Lebanese Americans to support Lebanon “with their hearts, their minds, their citizenship and their pocketbooks.” www.YourRights.com
Prominent Michigan Accident Attorney Joumana Kayrouz, in a keynote speech on May 5, 2016, told a packed audience of more than 1,600 people gathered for an expatriate conference in Lebanon to return to the tiny coastal country with their hearts, their minds, their citizenship and their pocketbooks.
The 3rd annual conference, dubbed the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference, was organized by Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’sMinister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants who is the moving force behind the enforcement recently of laws extending citizenship to Lebanese expatriates.
Kayrouz said that Lebanese Americans have been very successful in the United States and could use that success to strengthenLebanon’s future. Kayrouz is from Lebanon.
“Lebanon is smaller than the smallest American state, that being Rhode Island. Yet, as such a small community, Lebanese immigrants to the United States like myself have been very successful to occupy the highest positions of influence in all branches of the United States government, in public service, in the Federal and State governments, at the White House, in Congress, and in the judiciary,” Kayrouz reminded the crowd.
“What you are looking at today is the American Dream. I am the founder and owner of one of the largest personal injury firms and the largest female-owned lawfirm in Michigan. Michigan is 10 times the size of Lebanon. So I know we can do much to strengthen Lebanon.”
Kayrouz was recently named Michigan’s “Top Female Attorney of 2016,” and in 2012, Kayrouz was named “Top Lawyer of the Year” in a survey of more than 18,000 Michigan lawyers. Kayrouz also received the prestigious 2012 American Arab Chamber of Commerce (AACC) “Economic Bridge Builder of the Year Award”. That same year, Kayrouz also received the “Trailblazer Award” in recognition of her trailblazing achievements in the legal field, a field heavily dominated by men.
Kayrouz has been applauded for “breaking barriers” not just among American Arabs but also among American women living inMichigan.
Recognized with funding the single largest outdoor marketing campaign in Michigan advertising history, Kayrouz said that the publicity and media stories that were written about her always included that she is of Lebanese heritage and descent.
“Whenever I speak at a gathering in Lebanon or am interviewed by the news media in America, I proudly point out that I am American of Lebanese heritage,” Kayrouz said.
“I take great pride that through my work, marketing and advertising and my activism, I have helped put Lebanon on the map inMichigan.”
Kayrouz immigrated to the United States and initially settled in Connecticut, where she attended the prestigious Yale University. She later moved to Michigan to study and practice law.
But it wasn’t always so easy, she acknowledged during her remarks.
“What you are looking at is a little girl who arrived in 1986 in the state of Connecticut as an immigrant with only $1,000 in her pocket, broken English, very limited means and no connections,” she told the audience.
“There were not many Lebanese people living in the state of Connecticut when I arrived so there were no role models at the time. The American way of life was very different back when I arrived here in the United States. The only thing we as Lebanese knew about America was from popular American TV programs at the time like Dallas and Dynasty. The United States and Lebanonwere really not that open to each other. And there was no social media to bring our people together. So there was a huge gap between the two.”
Kayrouz said the challenge facing Lebanon is to re-engage successful Lebanese expatriates and she said the conference is a strong beginning. She credits this to the vibrant tireless efforts of His Excellency Gebran Bassil.
She said that she understands why many Lebanese expatriates can be discouraged by the political turmoil in Lebanon, the wars, the infighting, and the divisions in Lebanese society.
However, she quickly pointed out that “This kind of belief is very dis-empowering because it breeds inaction and contributes to keeping everything the same. That kind of belief keeps the Lebanese remaining a part of the problem rather than becoming a part of the solution.”
“It is our beliefs that drive our behaviors, and our behaviors then create our results. If we don’t like what we’re looking at, we have to change our behaviors, and to change our behaviors we have to revisit our belief system.”
No Lebanese, therefore, whether living here or abroad can afford to play the “dis-empowerment card,” she argued.
“A person’s success is not always measured by the size of one’s wallet but rather by the impact on the lives of others. What is the meaning of awards, titles and wealth if not to inspire others that they too can excel and also assist the less fortunate?” she asked.
“It’s not the circumstances we are born into, but the choices that we make.”
In speaking to the Lebanese news media after her presentation, Kayrouz noted that priority must be to restore citizenship to expatriate Lebanese living abroad.
Lebanon approved and amended laws in 2015 allowing people of Lebanese origin to regain or obtain their citizenship.
“The importance of the citizenship law goes beyond the demographic balance. Its importance lies in enabling Lebanon to benefit from its capabilities and potential and the expertise of expatriates,” she said.
Kayrouz said she supports the creation of a Lebanese Expatriate Fund to be financed by successful Lebanese expatriates in countries around the world.
“The idea is to bring Lebanese expatriates who have never been to Lebanon to their homeland to see it and experience it,” she said comparing it to programs financed by Jewish organizations which fund trips for Jewish youth to Israel.
“This initiative would allow Lebanese expatriates to truly experience their homeland and develop a sense of belonging toLebanon. In time, the number of tourists to Lebanon will increase as well as potential investors seeking to regain or obtain their Lebanese citizenship.”
You can get more information on Joumana Kayrouz by visiting her website at www.YourRights.com.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia as the Special US Correspondent for the Arab News at www.ArabNews.com, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
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