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Former US Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel awarded the 2018 Ellis Island Medal of Honor – Kristen Kouttab

Kristen Kouttab
June 1, 2018

Ellis Island

Ellis Island Photo LeoLondon

Ambassador Edward Gabriel received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor award on May 12, on Ellis Island, in New York City. This award is presented annually to American citizens “who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life.” Among the past honorees are seven US Presidents, three world leaders, and two Nobel Prize winners. The Ellis Island Honors Society, which awards the Medal annually, notes that the award is recognized by Congress as one of the nation’s most prestigious and is annually memorialized in the Congressional Record.

Gabriel was recognized for his accomplishments in the fields of business, public service and philanthropy.  As the son of Lebanese immigrants, he is one of many examples of first and second-generation Americans displaying the diversity of the Ellis Island Honor Society’s mission to honor and preserve ethnic diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups.

Ambassador Gabriel came from a modest background and began working at the age of ten.  He and his sister were the first to graduate from university in their family. He rose to become the 16th US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, serving during the second term of President Bill Clinton, where he distinguished himself on a number of fields, including bilateral military, political, and commercial affairs. Most importantly, he was instrumental in changing US policy on the Western Sahara region when, in 1999, the US proposed a negotiated political compromise between Morocco and Algeria.  Ambassador Gabriel’s international work has also involved national security and trade issues, and matters of Russian and European nuclear non-proliferation and safety.

His diplomatic career was preceded by a business career in which he built one of the largest public affairs companies in Washington, the Madison Public Affairs Group, which he sold to a multinational company in 1990. Also, at the age of 27, he was the founding Executive Director of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT), an American Indian energy trade association comprised of 22 American Indian Tribes.

The Ellis Island Honor Society recognized Ambassador Gabriel’s philanthropic and nonprofit work as a founding member of the American Task Force for Lebanon, where he is currently President and CEO, and as founding Chairman of the Moroccan American Center. Ambassador Gabriel served a number of years as Chairman of the Native American Spirit Awards Dinner and was the executive producer of a Kennedy Center production, both in support of Native American education. He is a board member of the Arab American Institute, where he initiated its annual gala fundraising event, the Khalil Gibran Award. He is the Co-Chairman of the American Schools of Tangier and Marrakech and a member of the boards of AMIDEAST, the Lebanese American University, the Arab American National Museum, and The Keystone Center.

Among his many honors, Ambassador Gabriel was recognized by two heads of state, with the Order of the Ouissam Alaouite from the King of Morocco in 2001, and the National Order of the Cedar from the President of Lebanon in 2002. He is the recipient of other awards as well, being recognized for his work in the fields of Native American rights and education, inner city community economic development, Arab American rights, policy work in the field of energy, and American education in the Middle East.

Upon Ambassador Gabriel’s receipt of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, President Bill Clinton said, “Your devotion to the advancement of knowledge, your promotion of cross-cultural understanding, and your tireless pursuit of peace have set an inspiring example for people around the world.”

Gabriel is a native of Olean, NY and currently resides in Washington, DC with his wife, Kathleen Linehan.

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