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Farooq Kathwari Honored as “Outstanding American by Choice”
Washington: Monday, April 23, 2007

Farooq Kathwari and three other naturalized Americans were honored in a special ceremony in the U.S. State Department’s Ben Franklin Room where fifty immigrants from more than twenty countries were sworn in as citizens of the United States.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice congratulated the honorees by stating “Today, we honor four such individuals, men and women, like you, who arrived in this country as strangers, who became citizens with the same oath that you have sworn and who, by their actions, have earned the honor that they will receive today, as Outstanding Americans by Choice.

In introducing Mr. Kathwari, Secretary of State Rice commented, “Farooq Kathwari, who departed his home in Kashmir, nearly forty years ago, and today serves as the Chairman, President and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors, as well as a respected voice in international affairs”.

Dr. Emilio Gonzalez, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, gave the award to Mr. Kathwari saying, “Farooq Kathwari, who came to the United States in 1965, has dedicated himself to the cause of conflict resolution in his native Kashmir.  He is Chairman of the Kashmir Study Group, serves on boards of several non-governmental organizations, and is director of the Institute of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.”

Mr. Kathwari made the following remarks after accepting the award:

“It is a great privilege to participate in this special ceremony.  I would like to add my congratulations to all the new citizens of this great country and also my fellow awardees of the very special recognition of Outstanding American by Choice.

“When I was informed of this award, many emotions were aroused.  It was hard for me to believe that a very young student, who landed in New York 41 years back with barely enough to survive for a few months, was being recognized in this special manner.

“In July 1976, the Bicentennial year of the Independence of America, I had the privilege of taking the oath of citizenship.  For those of us who have lived as refugees in regions of conflict, being separated for years from loved ones, and facing nightmarish difficulties in getting any official papers, becoming a United States citizen was an occasion to become a person who had his dignity restored and to have an identity that one could be proud of.  Over the last 41 years, this country has afforded me a unique opportunity in many ways.  I have had the privilege of leading Ethan Allen, a classic American brand, for the last 20 years.  I am involved in many organizations with civic and humanitarian causes and am proud to have the opportunity to contribute.

“I am also very pleased that my wife, Farida, is here to celebrate this occasion with me and gives me support in my endeavors.  I also want to thank my associates from Refugees International, Kashmir Study Group, and the National Retail Federation who are here.

“The strength of America is its diversity and the rights we enjoy, and this needs to be nurtured.  Since September 2001, this diversity has been challenged and in some quarters questions are raised about the role and contributions of immigrants. A few weeks back I participated in a conference with Emilio in Spain on the important subject of migrations of people in the North Atlantic Region and the challenges and opportunities this provides .  We discussed that immigrants demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit because they leave their homes and families and add new blood to America and other countries they emigrate to. 

“I am honored to receive this award as it sends a message that America values its immigrants, in fact, all immigrants, and recognizes their contributions.  I am particularly privileged to receive this award in these difficult times for our nation and the world where the principal message should be that America respects its immigrants and its citizens irrespective of race, religion and ethnic origin.  America was founded on principles of law and justice and we must preserve those as they are the fundamental American values and our strength as a nation.

“I believe that despite the current conflict and perceptions the United States is in a unique position to lead, not only because we are a major economic and military power, but also because we are situated to be a model of constructive pluralism since the United States is a microcosm of the world community in its diversity.  We must be recognized for the precedents of justice and fairness.   I want to again thank you for this great honor as all recognitions should be to help establish a precedent for others to follow.”

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