Washington, D.C. – PAAIA hosted its annual IA-100 Leadership Retreat for members and special guests at the Hay-Adams Hotel on April 27th and 28th, 2018. This year’s retreat followed a successful and empowering Capitol Hill Days in which we spoke to members of Congress about important issues affecting the Iranian American community. The retreat itself included a welcome dinner featuring our special guest, former Vice Presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a series of speakers and panels containing distinguished individuals from multiple areas of expertise, a private tour of the stunning Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran and “Feast Your Eyes” exhibit of ancient Persian artifacts, and social dinner at the Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler Galleries.
During the welcome dinner on Friday evening, Senator Tim Kaine spoke with our moderator, Atlanta City Councilmember and PAAIA Emerging Leader Amir Farokhi—the first Iranian American elected to public office in Atlanta, about the current political climate in the United States, the necessity of the separation of powers, and U.S. foreign policy. Senator Tim Kaine has spoken out against the Travel Ban on multiple occasions and is a vocal supporter of the Iran Nuclear Deal (also called the JCPOA). The Senator responded to questions from the audience on a variety of issues and met with members on a one-on-one basis before and after dinner.
Saturday’s panels included in-depth discussions on a wide-range of topics. Our keynote speaker was Ambassador Azita Raji, the first female ambassador to Sweden and the first ever Iranian American ambassador. She spoke about the state of U.S. democracy and the implications for America’s global standing, focusing on her experience as an American diplomat.
Our second presentation was given by Chief Marketing Officer of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Maryam Banikarim, who explained the necessity of defining an organization’s value and purpose before engaging in marketing. Banikarim taught attendees how to market themselves and their brands, promoting Iranian American entrepreneurship and enterprises.
The third panel was titled, “Hanging by a Thread: the Future of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” and it included Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group’s Iran Project director, Suzanne Maloney, the deputy director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, Vali Nasr, the Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University, and was moderated by Ambassador Stephen Mull. The former ambassador began by introducing the Iran Nuclear Deal and the process of recertification before explaining why the deal was in jeopardy under the Trump Administration. The panelists gave their opinions on the agreement’s future and the various possible actions by the U.S. government, European nations, Iran, and other Middle Eastern states that could affect the outcome.
We wrapped up the panels with an overview of PAAIA’s strategies to create more influence for the Iranian American community. Hastie Afkhami, the Senior Digital Vice President at the creative advocacy firm Subject Matter, presented the campaign ads that PAAIA is about to launch to enhance the image of the Iranian American community. This was followed by a summary of PAAIA’s work past year and PAAIA’s role in the Supreme Court Travel Ban case, including our efforts to secure data on the number of waivers given under the latest version of the ban.
This year’s retreat facilitated necessary conversations about how to raise the profile of the Iranian American community and build an influential voice around important policy issues. This event would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of many helping hands. PAAIA would like to thank our excellent speakers, panelists, moderators, volunteers, and participants. To view photos from this event, check out our Facebook album here.