A Conversation with the President of the Lebanese American Council for Democracy,
Dr. Joseph Khalil
Dr. Khalil was born in Lebanon, in 1974. As a child and young adult, he was an active member of the Scouts du Liban and the Lebanese Red Cross; both of which had a major impact on his character, beliefs, and work ethic. In the United States, he continued his academic growth and graduated from the Medical College of Virginia as a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 2000. He continued his education completing a residency program in prosthodontics at the University of Iowa. He has been since giving his wealth of knowledge and training to patients and practices in Arlington and Oakton, Virginia. In 2003, Dr. Khalil joined the first LACD chapter under the leadership of Gabriel Issa and Tony Haddad. He quickly became an integral part of several fundraisers and worked fervently toward building friendships and relationships with high ranking officials at the local, state, and federal levels in both Lebanon and the United States. In 2016, Dr. Khalil was elected for the presidency of the LACD.
A family man at heart, he has a beautiful wife, Jennifer and three lovely children, Christopher, Michael, and Elena. Beyond his passion for dentistry, he enjoys politics, reading, traveling, photography, and cycling.
LACD Media Coordinator, Marlene Sabeh, interviewed Dr. Khalil and asked him about his leadership in the LACD as well as the organization’s goals and mission.
M.S: Dr. Khalil, can you please tell us about your personal journey from Lebanon to the United States and how did you cross paths with the LACD?
Dr. Khalil: Ever since I was eleven years old, I got involved with the “Groupement Social Scout” of Ghadir-Jounieh, Lebanon. Being part of this great group, I learned early on in life, the importance of self-discipline, ethics, compassion, and patriotism as part of any person’s civic duty. I had wonderful leaders and mentors who infused me with the sense of commitment and respect for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon. I served as the Student Government President at my high school for three years which enabled me to exercise and hone my leadership skills. In addition, I grew up in a household that emphasized the value of patriotism. My parents’ devotion to Lebanon and its independence never dwindled, even during the harshest periods of the war. Their remarkable loyalty to Lebanon’s unity and sovereignty was evident in their beliefs and teachings and it deeply influenced me.
I carried all these values with me to the United States where I sought higher education. I continued to follow up with what was going on in Lebanon, eagerly looking for ways to help and support it in any way. In the early 2000’s and after graduating from Dental Medicine School, I had the privilege to meet Gaby Issa and Tony Haddad, the founders of the Lebanese American Council for Democracy, who introduced me to the mission of the council. I quickly realized that the LACD’s goals and vision are perfectly aligned with my ardent support for Lebanon’s democracy. I have been working with them and other dedicated members for years, constantly searching for ways to help our beloved Lebanon, while building strong connections with prominent U.S. figures. In 2016, we finally reached a phase where we were ready to grow on a national level and encourage all Lebanese-Americans to be part of rebuilding our war-stricken Lebanon. It was quite an honor but also a mission for me to run for the presidency of the LACD, as I felt that my location and my established professional and personal life would enable me to adequately lead and truly make a difference.
M.S: What are the main goals of the organization? As the LACD President, how are you currently promoting them?
Dr. Khalil: The main goal of our organization is to build relationships between the Lebanese-Americans and their country of origin. We want a) to stay connected to our roots and b) to use our experience and knowledge that we acquired in the U.S. to help Lebanon recover from the atrocious war. In addition to promoting the LACD in different events and in my own network, I try to raise awareness among our members, encourage them to participate in events, and entice them to offer their expertise to help Lebanon advance in different categories, such as healthcare (which I’m personally very passionate about), telecommunications, education, energy, sustainability, and much more.
M.S: Do you coordinate with officials in Lebanon and in what capacity?
Dr. Khalil: I talk to officials in Lebanon to better channel our support. We are a non-profit, non-political organization that strives to preserve the culture and identity of Lebanon, as well as find effective ways to support the development of all sectors in Lebanon. I try to remain in contact with other organizations in Lebanon and convey the backing of my organization for the peace and well-being of Lebanon.
M.S: How many chapters are currently formed under the LACD and what is the number of active members? What is your projected number of chapters to be formed and members to be recruited?
Dr. Khalil: In addition to the original chapter founded in Michigan, we currently have LACD chapters in Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Texas, D.C., Ohio, Florida, and New York. We are growing at a good rate but definitely aim to form more chapters in other states and hope to recruit more members. We presently have close to 250 members but aspire to double the number by August of 2018.
M.S: Is your organization going to have a role in Lebanon’s upcoming elections?
Dr. Khalil: The LACD encourages Lebanese-Americans to participate in any election and will act as an information center for all who wish and are allowed to vote. We will be available to answer their questions, inform them of the process, and provide them with the right support. This is a new era allowing Lebanese abroad to vote, so we want to facilitate and help with the procedure as much as we possibly can.
M.S: As a Lebanese-American, what do you tell fellow Lebanese-Americans who wish to join the LACD?
Dr. Khalil: The message that I would like to send to all Lebanese people living in the US is: If you love Lebanon and want to partake in rebuilding it, join the LACD! This organization is truly the vehicle of the enduring Lebanese identity in America. We want you to be part of this significant journey, so please join. I like to add that what unites us at the LACD is the love for the United States and Lebanon, despite our differences in backgrounds, socio-economic standings, religions, and skills. Each of us has something to offer and we effectively collaborate to help, support, and build strong relationships between Lebanon and the United States. So, please consider giving back to the country that infused us all with an outstanding culture and endless ambition!
M.S: In closure, how do you juggle your different roles: LACD President, dentist, husband, and father?
Dr. Khalil: I love my career and I’m very dedicated to my family. I also feel that I have a patriotic duty toward Lebanon and the United States. I thrive on feeling that I am making a difference in rebuilding my beloved Lebanon, while respecting the democracy and honoring the culture of the United States. I owe both countries a lot and through the LACD, I hope to lead my fellow Lebanese-Americans toward preserving their Lebanese identity and celebrating their American one. The only way to do this is to continue to invest in democracy in Lebanon and promote ways to heal the country and restructure its sectors.
M.S: Thank you, Dr. Khalil, for your time and candor.
*For more information on LACD and how to join, please visit www.lacd.us