To Young Americans of Syrian Origin
POETRY FORMAT, 6 Feb 2017
Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran wrote this poem to fellow Arab Americans, the majority of whom came from “Greater Syria” in Gibran’s time, comprising of today’s Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Those timeless words in the inaugural issue of The Syrian World in 1926 couldn’t ring truer almost a century later.
I believe in you, and I believe in your destiny.
I believe that you are contributors to this new civilization.
I believe that you have inherited from your forefathers an ancient dream, a song, a prophecy, which you can proudly lay as a gift of gratitude upon the lap of America.
I believe that you can say to the founders of this great nation, “Here I am, a youth, a young tree whose roots were plucked from the hills of Lebanon, yet I am deeply rooted here, and I would be fruitful.”
And I believe that you can say to Abraham Lincoln, the blessed, “Jesus of Nazareth touched your lips when you spoke, and guided your hand when you wrote; and I shall uphold all that you have said and all that you have written.”
I believe that even as your fathers came to this land to produce riches, you were born to produce riches by intelligence and labor.
I believe that it is in you to be good citizens.
And what is it to be a good citizen?
It is to acknowledge the other person’s rights before asserting your own, but always to be conscious of your own.
It is to be free in word and deed, but it is also to know that your freedom is subject to the other person’s freedom.
It is to produce by labor and only by labor, and to spend less than you have produced that your children may not be dependent upon the state for support when you are no more.
It is to stand before the towers of New York and Washington, Chicago and San Francisco saying in your hearts, “I am the descendent of a people builded Damascus and Byblos, and Tyre and Sidon and Antioch, and I am here to build with you, and with a will.”
It is to be proud of being an American, but it is also to be proud that your fathers and mothers came from a land upon which God laid His gracious hand and raised His messengers.
Young Americans of Syrian origin, I believe in you.
Kahlil Gibran (Jan 6 1883–Apr 10 1931) was a Lebanese artist, poet, and writer. As a young man he immigrated with his family to the United States, where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic. His romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, especially prose poetry, breaking away from the classical school. In Lebanon, he is still celebrated as a literary hero. He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception, gaining popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the 1960s counterculture. Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Laozi. (Wikipedia)
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 6 Feb 2017.
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