DEARBORN — Former longtime City Councilwoman Suzanne Sareini will be one of four people and organizations honored at the Arab American Institute Foundation’s 18th annual Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards gala April 19 in Washington, D.C.
Sareini, the first Arab American elected to public office here will receive the Najee Halaby Award for Public Service at the gala at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. She first was elected to the council in 1989 and served six terms before retiring.
As a second generation community member who was born in Dearborn, Sareini’s public service began in her youth at her family’s restaurant. One of the most well known Arabic restaurants in the area, it was a place where the community members could gather and help one another find their footing.
Later, as Sareini established herself as a Realtor and entrepreneur opening several restaurants and small businesses, she discovered a passion for helping people. As part of the Dix Avenue Business Association, Sareini spoke for the community when it was difficult to do so.
During her more than two decades on the city council, Sareini put special focus on the needs of seniors, women and children, never losing sight of the importance of family and community ties.
“I know how crucial it is to look at an issue from the perspective of what is good for Dearborn, not what is good for an ideological cause,” she said.
As the mother of four children — including current Councilman Michael Sareini — and a grandmother to 14, she found time to expand her public service. In addition to serving on the council, Sareini served on the Arab American Advisory Committee, as well as the Michigan Women’s Commission, and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
“In all things, Ms. Sareini represented her constituents with determination, boldness, bipartisanship, and gave an ear to the city’s many voices and needs,” read a statement from the AAIF announcing the honors. “For over 25 years, her commitment to the empowerment of the Arab American community has paved the way for many others across the country to run for office, while her commitment to her constituents has demonstrated the true spirit of public service. It is because of this and much more that we are honored to award Ms. Sareini with the 2016 Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service.
The other Gibran awardees are actor Jamie Farr, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Unite Lebanon Youth Project.
Launched in 1999 by the Arab American Institute Foundation, the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards is AAIF’s only annual fundraiser. Proceeds support the many projects — including scholarships, leadership training, and educational programs — of the foundation.