|Washington DC - What do former Under Secretary of State Tom Pickering, Congressmen Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Jim Moody (D-WI), comedian and actor Maz Jobrani, author Reza Aslan and Professor R.K. Ramazani have in common? They all serve together with ten other prominent academics and professionals on NIAC's new Board of Advisors.|
Pickering's sentiments are echoed by John Limbert, Professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy and an expert on Iran's national poet Hafez. "NIAC is serving the cause of reasoned discourse at a time when too many Iranians and Americans have come to demonize each other out of fear and ignorance," Limbert said.
Limbert knows this all too well. Having taught English in Iran as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s and then again at Shiraz University in the early 1970s, Limbert married an Iranian women and joined the US Foreign Service, only to end up as a hostage in Iran after the 1979 revolution and the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran.
Limbert has since dedicated much of his time to bring about a better understanding between the peoples of Iran and the US, working closely with the Iranian-American community.
That is a cause close to the heart of Congressman Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland. A decorated veteran of the Vietnam War (Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Navy Commendation Medal), Gilchrest is a Republican with a strong reputation of championing the environment and diplomacy. During his service on Capitol Hill, he co-founded the Dialogue caucus, aimed at promoting the use of dialogue and diplomacy in US foreign policy making as opposed to military action. Though his position against the war in Iraq was not popular in the Republican Party, his courage and independence has won him respect on both sides of the aisle.
"In the public policy arena there are three things that are absolutely essential," Gilchrest explained. "Competency, integrity and courage. NIAC provides the public and policy makers with all three."
Providing policy makers with valuable analysis and information, however, is NIAC's second function. Its first function is to promote the participation of Iranian Americans in our American democracy.
Civic participation has been the core function of NIAC since its inception and a key reason as to why Cyrus Mehri, one of America's foremost trail lawyers has joined the organization's Board of Advisors.
"NIAC has done a tremendous and highly professional job of inspiring members of the Iranian-American community to become engaged citizens within the American democracy," Mehri said. "NIAC has been an important catalyst and motivator in our community and should be applauded for all its good works."
Through participation, NIAC has helped the Iranian-American community wield influence in the halls of power for the betterment of America as a whole. A community that otherwise was known to be voiceless, found its voice though the efforts of NIAC and other Iranian-American organizations.
For those Iranian Americans who have lived in America the longest, the work of NIAC is long overdue.
"As an American-Iranian scholar who has lived in America for more than half a century I saw the need for an organization in the United States that could represent the interests of the Iranian-American community objectively and constructively," said Professor R.K Ramazani of University of Virginia. "The National Iranian American Council does exactly that."
Recognized as "The Dean of Iranian Foreign Policy Studies in the United States," Professor Ramazani is the founder of Middle East Studies at the University of Virginia, a former Vice President of the American Institute of Iranian Studies, and an Emeritus Member of the Board of Governors, Middle East Institute.
Dr. Habib Ladjevardi of Harvard agrees. The director of the Iranian Oral History Project at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies since 1981 and chair of the editorial board of the Harvard Middle Eastern Monograph Series since 1990, Dr. Ladjevardi has seen how other immigrant communities have made their contributions to American democracy.
"Nearly all recent immigrants to the United States have their own organization to mutual promote their interests and to have a collective voice in domestic politic arena," Ladjevardi said. "We are fortunate to have a group of dedicated educated Iranian Americans leading NIAC."
Institution and influence building are not short-term projects. It takes years of hard work to transform an apathetic community to a vibrant and politically active one. The fruits of this labor will be reaped by the next generation of Iranian Americans, but already in six short years, NIAC has reached several milestones and protected the interest of the Iranian-American community effectively, whether the issue was to prevent war between the US and Iran or to prevent defamation of the cultural background of Iranian American in Hollywood productions.
"There is no other Iranian-American organization with the reach and influence in the halls of power that NIAC has," said Reza Aslan, internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions and Middle East Analyst for CBS News.
Other members of NIAC's new Board of Advisors are professors Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Houchang Chehabi, Juan Cole, Farideh Farhi, Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Ahmad Sadri, actor and comedian Maz Jobrani and NIAC co-founder Alex Patico.
The Board of Advisors will help guide NIAC's activities and orientation as it continues to advance the interests of the Iranian-American community. To learn more about NIAC's Board of Directors and Advisors, please click here.
... Payvand News - 09/15/08 ... --