A Message to All ADC Members from ADC President Ziad Asali

ADC is an organization in which Arab Americans from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of religious and political beliefs, and all kinds of lifestyles, can gather together in defense of our fundamental common interests at home and abroad. ADC welcomes the participation of the entire community, and our supporters in the rest of society.
ADC views its grassroots activists and chapters as the backbone of the organization. With this understanding in mind, ADC has taken unprecedented steps to engage chapters and members in the decision-making process. Every member of ADC’s Board of Directors is elected directly by the membership, with a 3-time term limit.
During the past year, the Board has adopted the policy of inviting all ADC chapter presidents to attend each and every meeting of the Board. The ADC membership meets in general assembly at every ADC convention to ask questions of the Board, pass resolutions and give their input into national decision-making. At ADC’s recent convention in June, a decision was taken to arrange a retreat in the near future to bring together all ADC chapter presidents to allow for further discussion and strategic planning among chapters and with national Board and staff members.

* See Dr. Asali’s speech at the 2002 ADC convention *
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ADC national office staff continuously travel the country to meet with chapters, members and activists in order to maintain strong ties between local communities and the ADC national office. The process of initiating far-reaching mechanisms for grassroots input into decision-making at the national level was begun by the Board of Directors over five years ago. ADC is committed to the continuity of this process, which has been under continuous development, and to its expansion.
ADC’s vision is based on a program to empower the Arab-American community within the American political system. We are determined to provide the Arab-American community with a national organization commensurate with our size and accomplishments. ADC is moving to establish city offices around the country with professional staff in order to support Arab-American communities in becoming engaged in all aspects of civic, political and cultural life in their localities. All politics is local, and we encourage everyone in our community to be as actively engaged in local civic life as possible, including standing in local elections for school boards, town councils and the like. City offices have been established in New York City, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and are planned for Boston, San Francisco, Houston and Chicago in the near future.
ADC has reached a mutually acceptable severance agreement with its former West Coast regional director, Mr. Michel Shehadeh, whose employment was recently ended due to an organizational decision based purely on professional considerations. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Shehadeh’s work on civil rights and other Arab American concerns, and thank him for his years of service to the organization. ADC did not take this decision lightly or without cause, and the end of our professional relationship with Michel Shehadeh should not be construed to reflect badly on either him or ADC. ADC is also committed to continuing to defend Mr. Shehadeh’s civil rights, especially with regard to the L.A. 8 case which ADC has been deeply involved with from its outset.
ADC also is planning to move towards organizing the community in terms of congressional districts in order to maximize our impact on elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. The newly established NAAA-ADC PAC, through which members of ADC can contribute to a national political action committee which can focus our resources from around the country on specific elections in order to support our friends and oppose those who do not support our community, is another important element of ADC’s vision for the future.
We are all well aware of the new burdens and challenges that the post September 11th environment has created for our community and our organization. The attacks on United States created not just new challenges for Arab Americans, but also led to profound changes in United States that demand new approaches while holding fast to our values, principles and goals. ADC has taken the lead in trying to defend the civil rights of our community, and chapters around the country responded magnificently to the crisis. Our links to African-American, Latino and Asian-American groups have become much stronger, as demonstrated by their support for our recent campaign to remove Peter Kirsanow from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Over the past year our membership has increased significantly, we have established new chapters, new city offices and expanded our staff. We are suing the government to give us the details about the detainees. We are suing three major airlines for illegal airline discrimination. We continue to be at the forefront of movements to support the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom and to oppose an unjustified attack against Iraq. At the same time, we are engaging Congress and the White House with a new level of seriousness and effectiveness. Our voice has never been more clearly heard or widely recognized in the media and in the national debate. By any standard, we are making significant progress. However, the challenges remain daunting, and in some cases, are deepening.
The Arab-American community clearly needs to join together in an effective, professional and dynamic national organization that can serve as a vehicle for the empowerment we so dramatically lack at this stage in our political development. ADC aims to be that organization, to bring the community together in pursuit of our common objectives and mutual needs. ADC urges all Arab Americans to join the organization and become active members of local chapters, and urges all members to recruit new ADC members among your relatives, friends and associates. An Arab-American civil rights organization with tens of thousands of members, chapters around the country, and an effective and professional political action committee and lobbying arm would have a profound effect on the way in which decision-making at the local, state and national level in United States is conducted with regard to the issues of greatest concern to our community. This is our vision, this is our goal, and we urge all Arab Americans and their supporters to join us in this quest.
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