Words of Wisdom: Edward M. Gabriel

June 29, 2015

Ambassador Edward Gabriel brings years of leadership experience to his role at The Gabriel Company. He has an extensive background in international affairs, having convened multilateral policy forums on critical global concerns including international energy, counter-terrorism, and regional security, and has been involved in matters of Russian and European nuclear non-proliferation. During his tenure as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco from 1997-2001, Ambassador Gabriel focused on trade negotiations, bilateral educational and cultural exchange programs, increased security and military cooperation, as well as the strengthening of U.S.-Moroccan commercial relations. Most importantly, Ambassador Gabriel fostered the U.S. policy of North African political and commercial integration, using Morocco as a regional hub for the U.S. free trade agreement and spearheading a new U.S. policy to settle the major land dispute between Algeria and Morocco, commonly referred to as the Western Sahara.

 

Ambassador Gabriel is currently President and CEO of the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), Co-Chairman of the American School of Tangier, and member of the boards of AMIDEAST, the Arab American National Museum (AANM), and The Keystone Center. He also serves as the Chairman of the Moroccan American Center, which works to strengthen U.S.-Moroccan political, business, cultural, and security relationships.

 

My story is like that of so many other Lebanese Americans and other ethnic communities of my generation. My father was an immigrant from the Metn region of Lebanon who came to western Pennsylvania with my grandfather in 1910 at the age of ten. He was a proud American who fought in both WWI and WWII. As the story goes, he had to lie about his age both times, once being too young and once being too old to join. My mom was born to Lebanese parents who immigrated to Olean, NY in 1895.

 

My parents were married late in life, after WWII ended. They opened a clothing store that they had to close shortly thereafter, as they were not so lucky in the business. My father ended up as a janitor at the local factory and was later a cab driver. He died when I was only seven. My mom was a clerk in the local W.T. Grants department store.

 

I went to work at the age of ten, also lying about my age – but only by a year - to get a newspaper route. I went to all-Catholic schools, lived a block away from the Maronite church, was a boy scout and an altar boy who served Mass in both Syriac and Latin, and played on our grade school basketball and football teams. I was a freshman in high school when I started working as a shoe shine boy after school and Saturdays. In fact, I’ve never stopped working since I started at the age of ten, taking on too many jobs to list here.

 

Between my junior and senior years in college, with my buddies Buck and Mike, we hitchhiked through Europe for a month. It was my first long summer vacation and ended up being an international experience that would change my perspectives on life and the world. By the time I was 23 I was working in Washington, first at the newly formed Federal Energy Administration and then running an energy trade association, and finally founding my own public affairs company, The Madison Public Affairs Group. I have been working in the field of public affairs ever since. The Madison Group became one of the top ten largest public affairs firms in Washington, which I sold in 1990. Soon thereafter, I became involved in matters of international trade and energy, Middle East issues, and Russian non-proliferation policy. That in turn led to my becoming the US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco. From shoe shine boy to Ambassador – only in America!

 

I would like to leave you with these words of wisdom: live with tenacity, humor, a strong set of values, and follow your dreams based on a strong dose of reality. From the hardships I’ve faced in my life, be it my father’s death or the difficulty of trying to learn French– my latest challenge in life - I’ve learned that tenacity can help overcome most challenges. I don’t believe in a quick dollar, or taking the easy way out to reaching my goals - providing for a good life for my family, and contributing in some small way to a more equitable life for other people.

 

I have learned that the harder one works now, the more options one has later. And such decisions become a lot easier if we are grounded with a strong set of morals and a dose of reality to guide us through them. I am forever grateful to my parents, who had nothing material to offer me, but who both had a wonderful sense of humor and a strong sense of faith that helped them through their most difficult situations with a laugh and a smile and, as a result, gave me the best friends and opportunities that life has to offer.

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