Remarks from Gayle Smith

“Salaam Alaikum. Mabrouk.

I’ve got to tell you, to be here on the occasion of your first event, makes me extraordinarily happy, and I am truly, truly honored …

… So it’s up to us then, as Americans and as a global community, to lead with open minds, open hearts, and open arms. To welcome partners of all nationalities, ethnicities, and creeds.

Because I learned long ago that whatever your motivation is to do good is good enough. From wherever you choose to draw strength is strong enough.

For me, coming from a relatively sheltered upbringing in Columbus, Ohio, I will admit, this was all foreign to me, and new to me. I didn’t grow up in a very diverse community.

My introduction to Islam came when, as a young adult, I lived in North and East Africa. And that’s where I first saw what it means to be a strong, caring community united by faith. And I, this kind of odd, loud young woman from Columbus, Ohio, was welcomed and embraced.

Now I will tell you, and I offer an apology in advance for this, someone did have to tell me that you’re not supposed to sing along with the call to prayer, which I was doing vociferously in the back seat – I thought it was beautiful.

I learned a lot. And what I saw, and learned, is that Islam is based on the same basic principles you can find at the roots of every other major religion.

Be kind. Do good. Love your neighbor. Care for others.”

Read the full statement on the usaid.gov

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