Photo by Steve Neuhaus
Christopher Kennedy, a Democratic candidate for governor, attended the Arab American Democratic Club event Sunday in Palos Hills.
Gubernatorial candidate Christopher Kennedy vowed Sunday at an annual Democratic candidate’s banquet to bring diversity back to the state of Illinois and include American Arabs if he is elected governor.
Kennedy was the keynote political speaker at the event hosted by the Arab American Democratic Club (AADC) that drew the attendance of more than 50 elected officials and officeholders in local municipal, county, state and federal government.
A theme of the evening was championing the rights of American Arabs and including American Arabs in local, county, state and federal government, as well as opposing national policies restricting the rights of immigrants.
“Immigrants are our neighbors, our friends. They are the architects of our famous buildings and they enrich our daily lives. Immigrants are the very fabric of our society, just as I am and just as all of you are. Immigrants are American. We shouldn’t stop them from becoming Americans,” Kennedy, the son of Robert Kennedy, told the more than 400 attendees at the Belvedere Chateau in Palos Hills.
“When we welcome new people into our lives and into our country we encourage new ideas and new ways of looking at old problems.”
Kennedy told Americans that the experience of his grandmother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, taught her family the lessons of prejudice that Irish Catholics faced when she was a little girl.
“She described the signs hung above the back service doors of the restaurants that said N-I-N-A, ‘No Irish Need Apply’,” Kennedy recalled noting that though she was the mother of an American president, she was the daughter of Irish immigrants.
Attending the event were Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and Worth Mayor Mary Werner. Some other mayors in attendance were Gerald Bennett, of Palos Hills, and Mike Howley (Hickory Hills), Dan McLaughlin (Orland Park), David Seaman (Tinley Park) and Steve Landek (Bridgeview), who is also the Democratic state senator from the 12th District.
The keynote speaker was Jim Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute based on Washington D.C. Zogby served on the platform committee for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), who urged Arabs to become involved in local politics, to vote and to be inclusive.
“As immigrants, we help America to be smarter, stronger and better,” said Zogby who reminded the audience that it wasn’t too long ago that American politicians who return money rather than accept donations from American Arabs to avoid be associated with a community engulfed in controversy.
“We bring a lot to this process,” Zogby said. “We are Americans. We have contributed to this society and continue to contribute to this country.”
Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) also attended the event, along with Palos Committeeman Robert Maloney, Oak Lawn Trustee Bob Streit (3rd), who is a candidate for mayor; Paul Geller, candidate for alderman in Palos Hills; and Safaa Zarzour, candidate for Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Board.
Samir Khalil, executive director of the AADC, said the group is proud that so many government officials attended the brunch.
“Arab Americans are actively engaged in our society and communities. We pay our taxes. We have served in the military to defend this country. We have our homes, families and businesses in these communities. It’s important that our elected officials recognize our needs along with the needs of others,” Khalil said.