This week, Samer’s father died. His name was Samir Badr and was a lifelong resident of Ayn-al-Rummanah in Beirut and Brummana on Mount Lebanon. He worked as a dedicated and honest civil servant who became the head of the Preparation and Training Department at the Civil Service Council. A prestigious position in the office of the Prime Minister.
The first time I met Samir was in the spring of 2012. I went to Lebanon to visit, and we did not say much to one another. I do not speak French or Arabic, and he did not speak much English. Samir was from a different era of men, he wore a suit to entertain guests, and a tie to have lunch out of the house. You would expect to see him as an extra in Casablanca. He knew and appreciated formal Arabic, and memorized some of the greatest Arabic poems.
In his retirement he served as the President of the public sector retirees union. He took his role and work in that position as seriously as any full time worker. He led his union to fight against proposed pensions cuts and served the members with dedication and professionalism.
I once asked him what he wanted to become when he was a child, and he told me he thought he would become an army officer. He had a patriotism for Lebanon that was uniquely unburdened by nationalism or religious sectarianism. He did not want a divided Lebanon, but a Lebanon where the nation’s great experiment was not corrupted by bravado and political dickering.
He died a Maronite Catholic, though he was raised an Evangelical Christian in his childhood. He and his two brothers could tell tales of the urbanization of their neighborhood and their city. Where once stood orange groves, now stand cement apartment buildings. He lived through wars and went to work when many others stopped walking outside.
Let me not suggest he was without humor. Samer tells tale of his father trying to tell a dirty joke by using clean language. The revisions brought more laughs than the punch line ever did. After being in his house for a few days, I walked into the kitchen one morning. He looked at me, grabbed my belly and in English said, “What is this?” and chuckled his way out of the kitchen.
He was a rigid, conservative, and traditional man. Traits that are as far from me as possible, none the less he has my admiration. He was a proud, dedicated, and ultimately hopeful man who believed in a Lebanon better than it is today. He believed in his family, and was proud of the success of his children. I am grateful I was able to meet him and spend some time with him over the past three years. Let us all take a piece of Samir’s dedication to hard work and make our own society better for all of us, and not just ourselves.