Ben Affleck, Rima Al-Sabah and Sen. John McCain at the Kuwait-America gala dinner at the Kuwaiti embassy, 2011. (Vicky Pombo)
WASHINGTON: Kuwait's Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah and his wife Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah, with the cooperation of Kuwait-America Foundation held, with the participation of former US President Bill Clinton, a gala dinner entitled 'Enduring Support,' where $3 million was raised to fund USO, an organization that provides many humane services to the US forces and their families in the US and overseas.
Guest of Honor, former US President Bill Clinton, praised in a speech he delivered at the Gala Dinner the role the Kuwait-America Foundation plays for humanitarian causes, "I am grateful because this Foundation, thanks to the Ambassador and his wife, work on things I care a lot about and some things I have been involved with in the Middle East, including education especially for girls and health care.
I am grateful for the work the Foundation has done in building schools and I am really grateful for your support for building two USO centers," he affirmed. "It's really important to me that America never forgets the long term collateral costs of our commitments beginning with the first Gulf War including the conflict in Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan," Clinton noted.
Clinton praised Kuwait, "Kuwait has done remarkably well. Kuwait has got a multi-party democracy," and it is "one of the most free places in the Middle East in terms of the press," he affirmed. He shed light on a recent study that shows that the average Kuwaiti spends 20 hours a week using the internet, "there is a studied effort to manage this transition into the future.
He said that he thinks Kuwait, "maybe because it had to fight for its own independence, because it was invaded and occupied, has a really good chance to make the future and the US is a strong and proud ally." He added "what we have to keep doing what this Foundation does. You have to develop the young women as well as the young man. You have to emphasize education and health care.
There has to be a sense that things are moving in the right direction," he stressed. Clinton affirmed that he was 'thrilled' when former President George Bush conferred in 2004 'major non-NATO ally' status on Kuwait, saying "I am actually quite optimistic about the future.
I am here just to say thank you to Kuwait for the example you set and the friendship you have given, to wish you well and say that I think I am not the only American here who considers himself or herself a friend of your country and friend of the process that you have been pursuing for many years now," Clinton remarked.
Kuwait's Ambassador to the US Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah said that the Embassy has selected the USO for its gala dinner this year as it is a special commemorative year, "as we celebrate Kuwait's 20th anniversary of liberation and due to the major role the US troops played in that regard.
He added that therefore the Embassy focused through its gala dinner this year on the USO, which offers support of the armed American troops, as an initiative from the Embassy to offer gratitude for them." He indicated that he sensed a 'deep appreciation' from several of the top US officials who participated in the Gala for selecting this American organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the US military.
In his speech, Sheikh Salem said "we're proud to be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the USO, and to support its efforts to care for America's heroic wounded warriors, in a year that also marks the 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation." "Twenty years may seem like a long time ago but for Kuwaitis, the events of occupation and liberation are seared forever in our memories," he stressed.
The people of Kuwait will always be grateful to our friends in the United States for the sacrifices they made to stand with us in our hour of need," he remarked. The Ambassador noted, "we honor the US military for their courage and their skill, and for their service-every day-on behalf of security and peace.
We are proud that our close ties with this country have only grown from the opening of the first US consulate in Kuwait, half a century ago to the deep respect and shared sense of duty we feel as major non-NATO allies to the work we do around the world to promote development, stability, and hope," he affirmed.
Sheikha Rima, who is the Gala Founder and Chairman, said that as Kuwait commemorates its 20th anniversary of liberation, the USO has been selected as a gratitude from the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington to the American troops who played a major role in Kuwait's liberation.
Sheikha Rima stressed that "this year's cause is especially meaningful to me because it coincides with the 20th anniversary of Kuwait's liberation and because we were able through this gala to offer gratitude and appreciation for the American forces." Sheikha Rima said "we who have benefited from others' sacrifice feel a deep responsibility to give back.
What cause could be more appropriate, this year, than to give to the military men and women who give so much of themselves every day and who sometimes return from the battlefield only to face a whole new fight as they struggle to recover from their wounds, and rebuild a normal life," she remarked.
Special guest, Hollywood actor Ben Affleck, who has championed humanitarian issues in the world, said in a speech he delivered at the Gala that many members of his family has served in the military and he has "proudly worked" with the USO.
He shed light on one the trips he has made to the Middle East to visit the American troops. "We all understand that there are people out there who are risking their lives and there are also hundreds of thousands of people for whom this duty has no holiday," he stressed.
He added "I can tell you that there is not one member of the armed forces serving the country overseas who is getting rich doing it." "All they ask of us as civilians is that they be respected, supported, honored and remembered. It is not too much to ask," he remarked.
Affleck indicated that since 2001 nearly two million troops have been sent over to serve under Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, saying "that is one percent of the country risking their lives to secure the liberty and freedom of the other 99 percent of us." "Security matters. It is more than a slogan. It is life and death," he noted.
Meanwhile, USO President Sloan Gibson expressed his gratitude to Sheikh Salem and his wife for organizing and hosting this "extraordinary event," saying "thank you especially for what this evening will do for our wounded warriors and their families." He affirmed that this event "is a celebration on a number of levels," as the USO turned 70 just about a month ago, "but what is more important is that we join you in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait.
We are grateful for this very special relationship," Gibson said. "If our mission is to lift the spirits of America's troops and families, and we're not doing everything possible for our wounded warriors and their families, and our families of the fallen, then, we're simply not doing our job, " he remarked.
This is the seventh gala dinner the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington holds during which $11 million has been raised for humanitarian, educational, health and environmental causes in the Asian, African and Latin continents. This year's gala dinner is the first of which the amount raised went to an organization within the US.
Several top senior American officials attended the event , including Bill Clinton, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Senators John Kerry, Scott Brown and John McCain, also Ben Affleck, Michael Douglas, in addition to other prominent officials and figures. - KUNA
Kuwait Times Link
Washington Post Link
Thank you Kuwait :*