.: News & Events
On September 24, 2008, Professor Edward Montgomery, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, announced the inauguration of the Ameen Rihani Annual Lecture Series by stating that "The College is proud to inaugurate this lecture series in the name of Ameen Rihani, whose work goes far to establish understanding between East and West, a consideration with as much importance in his day as today." The first lecture was presented by H. E. Dr. Marwan Muasher, former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Jordan, and presently the Senior Vice President of External Affairs at the World Bank. The presentation was entitled "A Diverse and Pluralistic Arab Society Based on Rihani's Works". The introduction to this series highlighted the role of Rihani as a promoter of Arab-Western understanding, Arab-American Literature, and building the bridge between East and West.
Professor Nariman Farvardin, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Maryland stated in his remarks that "Ameen Rihani was a unique figure in the 20th century who devoted his entire life to promoting the cause of East/West understanding. In him, we recognize a voice we need to hear today, an Arab-American who represented the values of both an America of cultural and religious diversity, and an Arab world rich in its priceless cultural heritage of humanitarian principles of dignity, generosity, and moral courage."
H.E. Mr. Antoine Shedid, Ambassador of Lebanon to the USA, highlighted in his speech that "The series of lectures in honor of Ameen Rihani is a landmark development and a long overdue recognition that Rihani well deserves. Ameen Rihani was a Lebanese who valued his Arab cultural heritage and regarded himself a citizen of the world. He believed in the country of his birth and was fully aware of his responsibilities to serve her well. Rihani was not his country's chosen voice only; he became the chosen voice of the Arab world and eventually the chosen voice of a humanity desirous of justice, peace, and unity. Rihani represented one of the most powerful intellectual forces that resulted in the great Arab Renaissance in the 20th century. His place in the modern history of the Arab world has been aptly defined by Kahlil Gibran when he described him as "al-Muallim" (the teacher, or the master), for indeed he was the leader and "the father" of the Arab literary and cultural renaissance in the 20th century. Ameen Rihani, whom we have come to honor tonight, believed that Lebanon had a world mission, and he understood this mission to be the creation of a model for others to follow. It is a multi-faith, multi-cultural, and democratic community in which diversity of belief is respected and honored by all. Above all, it was that eternal model based on moderation supported by justice, unity, and peace."
Dr. Suheil Bushrui clarified the objectives of the Rihani Lecture Series highlighting the intellectual and moral values that Rihani represented in his country Lebanon as well as in the Arab World and the United States of America. This series is to give emphasis on such values.
Dr. Marwan Muasher emphasized in his lecture the significance of Rihani's thought by saying, "to honor Ameen Rihani and his resounding contributions to both Arab and American cultures and to uphold the values of acceptance and inclusion that he espoused, I will speak to you with both passion and reason. For I believe Ameen Rihani was well equipped with both, driven by his passion to promote the rich and culturally diverse heritage of the East, and directed by his reasoning that if we in the Arab world lose the passion to live in a free and just pluralistic society, we will be swept aside by forces of extremism and ignorance." In his lecture he called attention to the fact that "in the battle of ideas, we cannot keep the Arab World hostage to two equally unattractive forces: a political elite that has not invested in developing a system of checks and balances so that the pillars of democracy can evolve, and a radical religious ideology that might threaten the political and cultural diversity of society."
Finally Mrs. May Rihani closed with remarks in the name of the Rihani family, and the "Min Ajl Lubnan" Task Force in Washington D.C. She thanked the president of the University of Maryland, its provost Dr. Nariman Farzardin, Dean Edward Montgomery, and Professor Suheil Bushrui, for having the vision of establishing an Annual Lecture Series about Ameen Rihani, the Father of the Arab Renaissance. She drew the attention of Rihani's vision who dedicated his life to "A vision as large as optimism, a commitment as powerful as justice, and an activism as energetic as compassion."
The inaugural ceremony was attended by Ambassadors in Washington, D.C., university professors, scholars from the University of Maryland and other American universities, and members of the Lebanese Community from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.