On May 22, Layalina Productions celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a gala at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The event was a huge success, raising $413,800 and drawing an eclectic mix of guests from the administration, Congress, the diplomatic corps, Layalina donors, and prominent business leaders and Washingtonians. The proceeds from the gala will support Layalina's efforts to foster increased cultural, educational, and professional dialogues with the Arab world and broader international Muslim communities through innovative television programming and publications. The gala provided Layalina's Board of Directors with an opportunity to publicly recognize the individual and corporate donors that have been an integral part of Layalina's success over the years. An impressive list of speakers drawn from the news media and senior government officials provided guests with insights about the challenges and opportunities facing U.S. interests in the fast-changing Middle East. Speakers also celebrated Layalina's significant contributions to strengthening U.S.-Arab relations.
Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, president of Layalina Productions, said in his welcome speech that Layalina has been a strong and steadfast advocate of the power of public diplomacy and its ability to engender change. To date, Layalina's programs have reached millions of viewers in the Arab world and at home, creating new and positive channels of communication and understanding between disparate communities. "Our success is due in large part to the generosity of Americans and Arabs from all walks of life that recognize the importance of our efforts and who see in Layalina a robust vehicle to tackle issues of mutual importance," Ginsberg told the more than 160 attendees. "Your ongoing support and generosity will enable us to implement the eclectic slate of fresh, topical programming in our production pipeline."
The evening's keynote speaker, Thomas L. Friedman, was introduced by Layalina's founder and chairman, Ambassador Richard Fairbanks. A renowned New York Times columnist and multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mr. Friedman is a strong advocate for intercultural and relational dialogue as well as a loyal friend and supporter of Layalina. During his speech, Mr. Friedman spoke of Layalina's vital role in engaging with Arab youth who are "our future partner in the region". In light of the Arab Spring, he stressed our commitment to forge constructive and positive relationships with young Arabs in whose hands their countries' futures rest. He also examined the changing landscape of the region in the wake of the Arab Spring.
We were delighted that the newly confirmed Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the Honorable Tara Sonenshine, was able to attend the gala and address our guests. The Under Secretary was introduced by Layalina's president, Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, and her remarks touched on the importance of integrating public diplomacy with economic statecraft -- particularly entrepreneurship outreach to youth -- by enhancing social media outreach with the next generation and ensuring that our educational engagement is robust in speaking to the challenges on the horizon. The Under Secretary then commended Layalina's pivotal role in advancing cross-cultural understanding and dialogue through its programs, which emphasize the importance of forging strong and positive relationships, especially with young people, in the Middle East and North Africa.
Throughout the evening, guests screened snippets from a decade of award-winning Layalina television programs across multiple genres. These included the animated children's series Ben & Izzy, the feature documentary Life After Death, and a look at On the Road in America, Layalina's hit reality series which has reached 14 million viewers in primetime in the Middle East in its first two seasons. The third season of the series will soon air on the most-watched pan-Arab television channel. Guests were also treated to a teaser fro the forthcoming reality series American Caravan, which chronicles the experiences of six young Americans as they travel across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring.
New York based musician Amir El-Saffar and Layalina's composer Jamshied Sharifi regaled gala guests with a live performance of East meets West: a fusion of Jazz and traditional Arabic music. Gala attendees also enjoyed pre-taped comments by former National Security Adviser and Layalina counselor Lt. General Brent Scowcroft (USAF, Ret.), who discussed the global impact of the Arab Spring and the opportunity it provided Layalina to present relevant and meaningful material to an increasingly diverse and growing audience.
The 10th anniversary gala was made possible thanks to the efforts of Layalina's Board of Directors, with special thanks to Ambassadors George Argyros,Tom Korologos, and Paul Russo, and the Honorable John Chapoton. The evening was a tremendous success and we look forward to the continuing generosity of our donors and supporters as we tackle the next ten years of substantive and innovative television diplomacy outreach to our ever-growing audience of Arab and Muslim viewers around the globe.