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February 25, 2006

I would like to start by thanking the president of the American Lebanese Medical Association, Dr. Paul Wakim, the organizing committee of this convention, and the board of the association, for bestowing upon me tonight this great honor. I am not sure that I deserve it, but I happily accept it, and I will certainly work hard to earn it.   What is dear to my heart in this honor is the fact that it comes from people who are the descendants of a sacred land, Lebanon. I am here in America and America has been extremely generous to me. I am grateful, thankful, and I acknowledge allegiance to it. There is nothing that I wouldn't do to promote its prosperity and greatness, but at the same time, when I look into my own deeper self, I realize that my identity is Lebanese. There is no contradiction whatsoever in being a devoted Lebanese and a grateful citizen of the United States of America. In fact, people like me who came from distant lands appreciate America and American values more than those who were born and raised here. In my office in Houston, I have a branch of an olive tree from my land in Lebanon and on my desk, there is a bottle of oil from El-Koura, and a vessel that contains soil from my village, Bterram. Also, the license plate on my car is Lubnan. This is not to remind me from where I came, but to remind me of who I am. Khalil Gibran said that "if Lebanon where not my country, I would have made it mine." I say "that if Lebanon were not my country, I would not know who I am." Let us all pray for a quick resurrection of Lebanon from Death.

One of the big challenges for the American Lebanese Medical Association is to contribute to Lebanon. We should try to reverse the brain drain and put our talents and our resources in the service of Lebanon, not only in the area of medicine and medical care, but also in areas that would eventually shape the new Lebanon we aspire for. It is not true that the Lebanese talents in diaspora go to waste. The Lebanese in diaspora should be a major resource to the new Lebanon that we want to build. Also, they should be an integral component of the Lebanese population and should not only contribute in finance, medicine, engineering, science, and in arts, but they should also have the right to contribute to the new political formula that should emerge.

Also, I would like to remind you that our major commitment to America is to contribute to it. In medicine, we can contribute enormously. In the area of quality of medical care, we should infuse the American medical culture with the values that we brought with us from Lebanon: mercifulness, compassion, caring, loving, and humaneness. These are values which are unfortunately fading away in the everyday practice of medicine in America. Only when the patient is considered sacred to us, are we worthy of taking care of him. Medicine is not a business. The patient is not a client. Medicine is a mission and the patient is a sacred human being who deserves our best care and our utmost love. Also, we need to contribute to the science of medicine and to expand the frontiers of medical knowledge. This cannot be done without research. Only research leads to knowledge and I would like to encourage every one of you, whether you are in private practice or in academia, to be involved and engaged in one way or the other in research. The objective of research is not only to expand human knowledge, but also to expand the mind. I want you to remember that when you contribute to research and you bring about new knowledge, this new knowledge is not only a gift to America, but it is also a gift to the whole world. The great Lebanese who contributed to America indeed did not contribute to this country alone, but to the whole world.   The writings of Gibran, the innovations of Michael DeBakey, the mission of St. Jude's Hospital of Danny Thomas, are all gifts to all mankind.

May God bless you, bless our sacred land of Lebanon, and bless America.