Honoring Voices Who Empower the Voiceless

March 27, 2015

Last week, MPAC convened 300 of the nation’s most influential policy makers, media personnel, and community leaders in one room to recognize the achievements of our 2015 “Empowering Voices” awardees at our annual gala in Washington, DC. This year, we proudly presented our “Empowering Voices” award to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Journalist and Producer of "Serial," Sarah Koenig, and iconic civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who received MPAC's “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

SEE: "Empowering Voices" Gala Photos (Flickr)

ALSO SEE: Department of Homeland Security Press Release

The first award of the evening recognized Secretary Jeh Johnson's personal investment in engaging American Muslim communities across the United States. Upon accepting the award, Secretary Johnson recalled Martin Luther King, Jr.’s pursuit of justice and stated:

The reading of the Quran reminded me of two things that Martin Luther King said a lot, which are quintessentially American values. One is, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Second, ‘I cannot be, what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be in this country.’”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) also provided remarks at the gala, stating that Muslims must start an internal conversation about countering violent extremism. He further denounced, “murder, mayhem and beheadings” as haraam or “forbidden.”

Next, MPAC presented an “Empowering Voices” award to Senator Patrick Leahy, which was accepted on his behalf by two senior members of his staff, Chan Park and Hasan Ali. Sarah Koenig also accepted an award in honor of her humanizing portrayal of communities in the world's most popular podcast, “Serial.”

Finally, Rep. André Carson (D-IN) presented MPAC's “Lifetime Achievement Award” to Rep. John Lewis for his dedication to activism and the cause of human dignity. Guests were moved by Rep. Lewis’s acceptance speech where he implored the audience:

“You must never ever give up, or give in, or lose faith. Be hopeful, be optimistic, keep standing up, speaking up and speaking out, and get in the way."

We have come to a point where a cabinet-level official, a Senator, a Peabody Award-winning journalist and an iconic civil rights leader accepted recognition from our community. It is a tacit acknowledgement of MPAC and the American Muslim community’s clout and respect that we have earned.

Help us take the American Muslim community to the next level by donating a gift to MPAC.


Salam Al-Marayati
MPAC President

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