This year’s Law Day theme, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” is beautiful and so relevant.

For our country and its rich diversity of people, culture and opinions, it is more important than ever that we understand and appreciate how important freedom is.

The Arab American Bar Association of Illinois (AABAR) is almost 30 years old, continually growing and helping to ensure and protect our freedoms. The diversity of AABAR is a microcosm of the diversity of Arab-Americans: We come from 22 different Arab countries and are Christian and Muslim.

When it comes to freedoms, AABAR is front and center. In November, AABAR held its annual installation and awards dinner. Our distinguished honorees included Arab American Family Services and the National Immigrant Justice Center, who have been dedicated and committed to the service of others.

In 2018, AABAR was as active as ever. Some of the highlights include:

  • AABAR co-founder and past president (and mentor to many of us), the Hon. William J. Haddad (ret.), was honored at the minority reception held at Northern Illinois University College of Law.
  • Cook County Circuit Judge Samuel J. Betar III, an AABAR member, was honored at the 2018 Vanguard Awards.
  • We were proud to attend the Decalogue Society of Lawyers’ luncheon with former Israel Supreme Court justice Salim Joubran at the Union League Club. (Joubran was Israel’s first Arab Supreme Court justice for over a decade.)
  • We held a free Continuing Legal Education event at McAndrews, Held & Malloy Ltd., where our past president, professor John Breen of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, discussed legal ethics, and member Mazen Asbahi of McDonald Hopkins LLC discussed “What Lawyers Need To Know When Serving on a Nonprofit Board.”
  • We participated in the Lebanon/Cook County Judicial Exchange Committee Reception at DePaul University College of Law, which hosted five judges from Lebanon.
  • In conjunction with the Decalogue Society, we co-hosted the Third Building Bridges Awards, honoring both the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Chicago for their dedication to and support for immigrants, asylees and refugees.
  • We co-hosted with the Diversity Scholarship Foundation a re-enactment of Mendez v. Westminster, with AABAR’s Judge Betar (highlighting a case representing that a paramount requisite in the American system of public education is social equality and that it must be open to all children regardless of lineage).
  • We hosted a career panel, which I was fortunate to moderate, to provide insight to young and aspiring lawyers. I learned so much from and about the panelists that I could have listened to them for hours.
  • We hosted a White Sox game outing and tailgate.

AABAR’s 2018 year in review has been a testament to the success of the organization and the dedication of our members. At our annual dinner, I was installed as recording secretary, along with our new officers: President Sandra R. Frantzen, Vice President Marvet M. Sweis Drnovsek, Treasurer Nura Yanaki and Corresponding Secretary Tony M. Abou Ezzi. These folks are the backbone of AABAR. Without them, AABAR would not happen. Without them, our freedoms would be at risk.

We do not know what the coming year will bring, but if there are freedoms that need protecting, AABAR will be there. We will keep fighting, because even though “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” is the theme of this year’s Law Day, it could very well be the motto of AABAR and every AABAR member. This is what we do. This is who we are.

We look forward to growing and prospering in 2019!