Manal Fakhoury exemplifies public service rooted in Palestinian identity
When Manal Fakhoury was six years old, her family immigrated from Palestine to California—but they never lost touch with their roots.
“From a very young age, Palestine was very important to us, and what was happening in Palestine was also very important to us,” she says of her childhood home.
This is the background in which Dr. Fakhoury, President and CEO of Fakhoury Leadership International (FLI), got her start. Today she directs FLI, raises five children, and is a leader in countless other initiatives and groups such as Toastmasters, Take on Hate, Florida Muslim Capitol Day, TEDTalks, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. She also holds doctoral and masters degrees and works as a pharmacist.
Dr. Fakhoury visited Chicago in November for American Muslims for Palestine’s Annual Convention for Palestine in the US, where she presented on a panel and led a workshop on public speaking for attendees. Speaking with us at the conference, she said that coming from a network of business people rather than activism, she sees the need to apply certain key skills to Palestine advocacy.
“A lot of these conferences don’t have that type of [public speaking] workshop included, and yet it’s critical.” Fakhoury said.
“We communicate all day long, but if you can communicate effectively, you can make miracles happen… Communication is key, and frankly, I believe it can even lead to peace.”
Putting ideas like this into practice, Dr. Fakhoury directs initiatives such as the Muslim Capitol Day in Florida, to acquaint American Muslims with the political process, and United Voices, which takes students on a week-long trip to Washington, DC each summer. In Palestine, she has helped found a Toastmasters club, a public speaking training group, in Ramallah, and says that one in Gaza is planned to begin.
When asked what she thought the largest change of the past year has been for the Palestine solidarity movement, Dr. Fakhoury spoke positively about the shift toward the mainstream.
“People are becoming a little bit more courageous. The Bernie Sanders campaign helped that,” she said.
According to Dr. Fakhoury, non Palestinians have a crucial role in changing American opinions.
“I think people can relate to people that look like them,” she admitted, arguing that non-Palestinian Americans can serve as “ambassadors” to their own communities when Palestinians themselves may be initially rejected as biased sources on the situation in Palestine.
Dr. Fakhoury spoke proudly of her five adult children, with whom she and her husband—who is also Palestinian—have traveled frequently to Palestine. She said that she raised them to be informed, engaged and passionate, from the model of her own upbringing. In every arena, it is clear that Dr. Fakhoury’s commitment to service is linked to her strong personal principles and identity.