The American Task Force for Lebanon held its annual gala awards
dinner at the Fairmont Washington Hotel on March 16 to honor two
prominent, albeit very different, Americans of Lebanese heritage:
Tony Shalhoub, actor and star of the USA Network show “Monk,” and
Dr. Charles Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Ceremonies Spencer Abraham, a past honoree and former U.S. energy
secretary, presided over the audience of notable Lebanese
supporters, including the ambassadors of Lebanon, the Arab League,
the Dominican Republic and Yemen, as well as Palestinian
Representative Afif Safieh (see profile in Jan. 05, 2006 Diplomatic
Pouch) and Chief of the Libyan Liaison Office Ali Suleiman Aujali.
“The Middle East is a region where violence has too often been the
engine of historical change,” Abraham said, noting that despite the
tremendous political upheavals in Lebanon, his country “firmly and
definitively rejects any return to violence.”
The dinner came on the same day that the head of a U.N. probe into
the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri
announced that he would be making new demands of Syria to pressure
them into cooperating with the investigation.
On a more light-hearted note, Elachi—who as head of NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory was in charge of the successful “Spirit” rover
landing on Mars in 2004—sounded more like a comedian than a
physicist when he accepted his award, joking that upon seeing
Lebanese Ambassador Farid Abboud again after seven years, the two
can now compare how much hair they have lost.
But the comic spotlight belonged to actor Shalhoub, who impressed
the crowd with both his devotion to his Lebanese roots and his quick
wit. “This definitely goes down in history as the hardest act to
follow,” Shalhoub said of following space pioneer Elachi. “I went to
Cabo San Lucas once.”
Shalhoub regaled the audience with tales about his large Lebanese
family, including his father who, after arriving in the United
States, was never able to return to Lebanon like he had hoped. The
Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor also talked about the
inspiration behind the many roles he has played on screen: “There
has been a veritable parade of diverse and wonderful characters [in
my life]. Yes I’m referring to my Lebanese relatives,” he quipped.
The American Task Force for Lebanon is a nonprofit organization that
seeks to promote a secure, stable and sovereign Lebanon.