Shalala and group read work of renowned Lebanese poet

UM President Donna E. Shalala gathered with students and faculty last Thursday for a group reading of Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet, hosted by the Solution Interdisciplinary Forum.
“Reading poetry in a group arouses the pleasures of art and life, as we come together to share and learn from each other,” Khaleem Mohammed-Ali, president of Solutions, said. “I am most touched that we were able once again to introduce people to a book they may not have otherwise encountered- Kahlil Gibran, the most famous Lebanese writer, is in danger of being forgotten by our generation.”
Before beginning the event, President Shalala shared her Lebanese heritage and told of how her father used to read parts of Gibran’s poetry to her.
“For every Lebanese child, [The Prophet] is like a fairytale,” she said. “It was very much a part of my childhood and growing up.”
Some students could identify with Shalala’s experience.
“I read the book when I was really young,” Jason Obeso, a junior majoring in English and creative writing, said. “It has a beautiful style and I just wanted to reacquaint myself with the book again.”
Gibran’s best-known work, The Prophet is a partly autobiographical book of 26 poetic essays that was published in 1923. The collection has been translated into over 20 languages and teaches of the mysteries of life in a spiritualistic way. The book touches upon everything from freedom, pain, and self-knowledge, to friendship, beauty and other aspects of life.
“This is an interesting time to be reading Arabic poetry given the state of the world today,” Dr. Thomas Goodmann, faculty advisor for Solutions literary events, said.
For many, reading brought about a sense of comfort and community.
“At a time when our country is at war, it is important to strengthen our communities,” Mohammed-Ali said. “The Prophet is about community; it is about sharing and learning from one another.”
Because of its emotional undertones, many were moved to tears and expressed their gratitude for being able to share in Gibran’s work, including Dr. Benjiman Webb, director of the honors program.
“It was a dramatic ending,” Mohammed-Ali said. “Professor Webb was visibly moved after reading the final chapter. He took a deep breath and said: ‘That’s heavy stuff!'”
Solutions next event, “Artificial Intelligence: Ambition and Ethics”, an interdisciplinary panel discussion with a biologist, a computer scientist, and an ethicist, will take place Thursday, at 6:30 p.m. in LC 120.
For information, e-mail Solutions at

Angelique Thomas can be contacted at

March 25, 2003


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