On Thursday July 17th, the Arts Club of Washington was buzzing with Iranian American pride. The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) held its first local community event, introducing the newly formed organization to over 90 Iranian Americans eager to learn about PAAIA, and its ambitious Community, Image, and Influence Building plans.
The event was led by PAAIA's Public Relations Director Rudi Bakhtiar (former CNN anchor), who began by talking about the importance of having an organization like PAAIA representing the Iranian American community both in the political arena, as well as in the media.
Bakhtiar stressed, "Despite our individual successes, we have not been able to capitalize on our achievements so that we can benefit collectively...as a community. And the only way to do that is to come together under an organization that leaves political affiliations and religious beliefs at the door and solely focuses on the commonality of being Iranian American. "
PAAIA'S Executive Director, Babak Hoghooghi, echoed that theme, adding "building an influential voice in the U.S. political process not only benefits our children and our children's children but it allows us to give back to American as much as it has given to Iranian Americans."
Hoghooghi went on to give several examples of projects PAAIA is working on in order to project an accurate and positive image of the Iranian American community, including The World Affairs Council's "Teacher's Workshop." Funded by PAAIA this year, the workshop brought 18 high school teachers from all over the United States to Washington DC three days of intense training on Iranian culture and history. CNN's coverage of the workshop, by one of their most seasoned reporters, was shown to the audience as an example of PAAIA's public relations arm at work.
Also, shown was an 8 minute mini documentary of another exciting PAAIA project, titled: "Profiles of Iranian Americans." A series of webisodes, in which Rudi Bakhtiar travels the country interviewing Iranian Americans with compelling immigration and success stories, such as, Google V.P., Omid Kordestani, and comedian, Maz Jobrani.
Newly hired Legislative Director, Morad Ghorban, was also on hand to tout the successful merger of PAAIA with the Iranian American community's only Political Action Committee. Niaz Kasravi, PAAIA's Director of Community Relations ended with a call to action, urging the audience to be proactive and join PAAIA's cause.
The highlight of the night was when Afshin Molavi, journalist and think tanker (of New America Foundation), whose face has appeared on ABC, CNN, and a host of other channels as an expert on Middle Eastern Affairs, gave an impromptu speech on the need for PAAIA. Driving the point home with his personal experience of bias in the media, Molavi offered his whole hearted support to the organization.
By the time the presentation was over, there was a palpable buzz of "yes we can" in the air.
One attendee said, "For the first time, I think we might have something here, we actually might be able to build something positive. I mean just look at the caliber of the board of directors.... If they can't do it, nobody can!"
PAAIA is a 501(c)(4) "civic/social welfare organization" that is permitted by law to engage in issue advocacy and lobbying activities. As a social welfare organization, PAAIA can and should ideally have an affiliated political action committee to enhance its political influence building activities. The affiliated PAC will allow the organization to get directly involved in elections at the state and national levels by providing contributions to candidates running for public office.
... Payvand News - 07/29/08 ... --