Bipartisan Honorees Focus on Immigrant Contributions, Need for Balanced Dialogue on Migration Reform

Jun 15, 2011, 12:32 ET from Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading U.S. immigrants last night called for a more respectful and balanced dialogue on migration reform. The leaders' remarks were delivered at the National Press Club during the Eighth Annual National Leadership Awards dinner honoring immigrant contributions to the United States. The nonpartisan event was sponsored by the Merage Foundation for the American Dream in association with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  Awards were presented to:


  • Anousheh Ansari (Iran) – National Leadership Award in Business -- Co-Founder & CEO of Prodea Systems; first female private space explorer and first Muslim woman in space
  • Deepak Bhargava (India) – National Leadership Award in Strengthening Community -- Executive Director of the Center for Community Change
  • Carlos Gutierrez (Cuba) – National Leadership Award in Public Service -- Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce & Vice Chairman of the Institutional Clients Group for Citigroup
  • Dr. Erik R. Kandel – (Austria) National Leadership Award in Science & Education -- Nobel Laureate, Columbia University Professor; Fred Kavli Professor, Director & Senior Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Dr. Fareed Zakaria (India) – National Leadership Award in Media & Journalism -- CNN Host, TIME Magazine Editor-at-Large, Washington Post Columnist & Author

Academic fellowships were awarded to 12 American Dream Fellows, outstanding, first-generation immigrant university students from Egypt, Ghana, Mexico, Colombia, Israel, India, Somalia, and Russia.  Dr. Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, served as emcee.  

"The U.S. economy has always benefited from the influx of highly skilled and motivated workers," said Wilson Center Director, President, and CEO Jane Harman in her welcoming remarks. "My father, a refugee from Nazi Germany, lived the American dream as a successful medical doctor, and millions of other immigrants share similar stories." A former congresswoman who supported immigration legislation, Harman said, "Immigrants—especially young immigrants—are the foundation of our nation, and make us stronger."

"Sustaining the American dream for immigrants is vital for the American quality of life," said Paul Merage, President of the Merage Foundation. Speaking as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and an Iranian immigrant, Merage cited "the enormous contributions that American immigrants have made to the economic and social well-being of our country. The United States has benefited tremendously from opening its doors to immigration," Merage noted, as "immigrants have driven innovation and helped generate America's economic prowess, opening opportunities for all Americans."  

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is the national, living memorial honoring President Woodrow Wilson.  In providing an essential link between the worlds of ideas and public policy, the Center addresses current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world.  The Center promotes policy-relevant research and dialogue to increase understanding and enhance the capabilities and knowledge of leaders, citizens, and institutions worldwide.  Created by an Act of Congress in 1968, the Center is a nonpartisan institution headquartered in Washington, D.C., and supported by both public and private funds.      

The Merage Foundation for the American Dream, founded in 2004 by Paul and Lily Merage (both immigrants), is dedicated to helping immigrants join mainstream America.  It inspires young immigrants to achieve their American Dream.  It helps immigrants become leaders in their communities and in the nation.  It encourages Americans to recognize and celebrate the contributions of new Americans and their individual and collective positive impact on the nation.  It fosters nonpartisan discussion of key immigration issues facing the United States. The Foundation's hope is that increasing numbers of immigrants will be able to reach their own, and their family's, aspirations.  

Contact: Steve Meeter, MFAD

SOURCE Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars