Thursday, March 12, 2009

Letter from AUB Alumni to Obama

Below is a letter sent to Barack Obama on behalf of the American University of Beirut's alumni. The letter was penned by former Lebanese Ambassador, and Worldwide Alumni Association of AUB (WAAAUB), Khalil Makkawi. Ambassador Makkawi is also the president of the Palestinian-Lebanese Dialogue Committee.

Mr. Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
Washington, DC.

January 27, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of more than 45 thousand members of the Worldwide Alumni Association of the American University of Beirut (WAAAUB), I extend to you sincere congratulations on the occasion of your assumption to the presidency of the United States. The graduates of this outstanding university were trained in the American system of education, which is based on the values of freedom of thought, democracy, diversity and accepting the other. As we listened to your inaugural speech we became hopeful that the long-awaited change in US relations with the rest of the world, particularly the Middle East, was finally at hand. We were particularly encouraged by your reference to a changed policy toward the Muslim world, based on a relation of mutual respect.

Our Alma Mater was established in 1866, the oldest and largest US-chartered university in the Middle East. In fact, 19 AUB alumni attended the UN founding conference in San Francisco, California (USA), in 1945, and three AUB alumni were signatories of the UN Charter - no other institution can lay claim to having so many graduates play such a prominent role in the creation of the United Nations. In its heyday our university had students from all over the Arab and Muslim world and they were imbibed with the universal values we all believe in, filling important posts in government and contributing to the development of their countries.

Mr. President,

Israel's 22-day war on Gaza, just before your inauguration, together with its 33 day attack on Lebanon in 2006 have established very dangerous principles in the region. The international community, together with the United Nations and the Arab League were unable to stop the carnage and destruction in both cases. The United States and its friends in the region suffered a heavy blow to their credibility. Where international legality fails, radicals and extremists thrive posing a threat to global peace and stability.

Indeed your own successful election campaign was based on the recognition that the advocacy of extreme positions is inherently destructive to efforts to secure the blessings of peace, prosperity and human dignity, whether domestically or in the realm of foreign relations.

As you well know, the conflict in Palestine, which is the core issue of the Middle East conflict, has gone unresolved for sixty years. Scores of UN resolutions, and several accords that were brokered by various powers, including the United States, were ignored. The two-state solution which was advocated by the United States is being rendered impossible by Israel?s continuing occupation of Palestinian territories and the expansion of its settlements. No amount of roadblocks and separation walls can provide security for Israel as long as this situation continues. With the inflammation of the conflict, we fear that an equitable solution will recede even further from our grasp, posing insurmountable challenges for securing peace and stability for our entire region.

Mr. President,

We are highly encouraged by your decision to tackle the conflict in the Middle East as one of your priority issues. The appointment of Senator George Mitchell, the highly qualified and experienced statesman, as your Middle East peace envoy is timely and welcomed. There can be no doubt that a solution of this conflict will set the stage for unraveling other global problems, and restoring the good image and reputation of the United States in the Middle East and the rest of the World. We wish you every success.

Ambassador Khalil Makkawi


  1. Skyward Wolf6:34 PM

    I have already read it before as I'm an AUB Graduate. It is quite interesting, but as I was wondering, can anyone help in understanding the reason and motive behind the message. What does Khalil Makkawi to achieve by sending such a message?

  2. Jimmy6:45 PM

    I guess the alumni are one of many groups trying to distinguish themselves and maybe trying to place themselves and their unique experience and heritage (coming from a major american-middle eastern institution) at the disposal of the U.S. President and his drive at bringing the American and Arab worlds closer together.

    Thats just my guess.

  3. Anonymous7:32 PM

    I fail to understand this letter. If at least Ambassador Makkawi would have said something about the thousands of rockets tossed on Israel, I would accept it. But to blame only Israel for defending itself is just stupid.

  4. hmmmm... I read it, but I found it a bit pretentious and presumptuous. Its not like Obama's mind was made up to ignore the middle east and thanks to the WAAAUB, the president of the United States is now motivated, back, and working for peace... Also, and perhaps more importantly, I am not sure that as a member of the WAAAUB I authorized anyone to send any policy letters on my behalf.

    What do you think blacksmith ?

  5. Ehhh, well according to WAAAUB the letter was received by Obama.

    As for content, I liked the bit about AUB having a claim to fame in the number of alumni at the founding of the UN and the drafting of the UN Charter.

    They could've stuck to AUB's educational and cross-cultural mission but chose to wander into regional politics. Technically, I don't think the alumni group is supposed to do that.

    Other than that the wording obeys the generic style with which most Lebanese diplomatic speeches are given.


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