We looked forward to interviewing our good friend, Mr. Pierre Bejjani for “I, Foreign Born” because we have known Pierre, who first came to the United States from Lebanon in the early-1980’s, for years and cannot think of anyone else who better embodies the immigrant experience of coming to the United States from a place of unrest and making the most of its opportunities.
“The United States is beyond question a great country,” said Pierre who joined us for a conversation at “Kan Zaman”, a Middle-Eastern restaurant on West 25th Street, “It has great opportunities for those who want to succeed.”
We have known Pierre since around 2001 since he often came by the office of U.S. Congressperson Dennis J. Kucinich (where we used to work) for counsel on matters pertaining to immigration and have mentioned Pierre quite a bit in our “Out and About” column because we are very much used to seeing him at all kinds of community functions.
Not only is he a very successful businessperson, but he volunteers a lot of his free time to serving as the president of the “Cleveland American Middle East Organization” aka “C.A.M.E.O.”; a member of the executive board of the “Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation”; a member of the international advisory board for the “Cleveland Museum of Art”; a member of the advisory board of the “Global Cleveland” initiative; and a member of the advisory board of the “U.S. Army Grass Roots Recruiting Battalion of Northern Ohio”.
In addition to the above, he is also the founder of the “American Lebanese Community Council” where he is currently the chairperson; the”Worldwide Intercultural Network” that eventually evolved into the “International Community Council-Worldwide Intercultural Network” aka “ICC-WIN” where he now serves as the treasurer; and the Lebanese Cultural Garden committee.
Pierre told us that one of the reasons that he gives so much of his time to such organizations is that he wishes to raised awareness about the talents of the of Arabic-Middle Easterners living in Northeast Ohio, a large percentage of which are self-sustaining professionals who contribute a lot to their communities and the economy.
As we wrote before, Pierre was born in Lebanon into an upper-middle class family consisting of his mother, his father, two brothers, and a sister. His father was a contractor who worked on local construction projects while his mother devoted herself to the raising of their children.
In terms of education, Pierre attended a private Catholic school all the way through high school and briefly enrolled in the “American University of Beirut” intent on studying civil engineering.
However, conditions in Lebanon were becoming quite tumultuous due to the civil war that started in the middle 1970’s and lasted all the way into the 1990’s. Accordingly, a decision was made in 1981 to send Pierre the the United States to complete his education in a less strenuous environment.
Since distant relatives lived in the Cleveland area, that is where Pierre settled for what he believed would not be more than a few years. He first attended Tri-C and then CWRU before finally obtaining his degree in civil engineering from Ohio State University in 1986.
His positive experiences here in the United States motivated him to want to stay here so, for a few years, he worked at engineering jobs for several companies before he founded “BBM Inc.”, a wholesale distribution business, in 1991 and successfully guided it for 20 years. Around 2010, he became involved with “Diversity Advertising Agency” another prosperous business venture and is now its senior partner.
What we immediately associate with Pierre, however, is his involvement with “Profile News Ohio” which was created in 2008. Things started off slowly and all of its initial readership resided in Cleveland but eventually it acquired a circulation of 10,000 to 15,000 readers from all over Ohio which makes it the largest Arabic/English newspaper in this state and Pierre is very active as its managing director and executive editor.
Since 1992, Pierre has been married to his wife, Mary, who he met while attending college and they are the proud parents of a lovely daughter named Julia who is attending Baldwin-Wallace College.
On matters pertaining to immigration policy, Pierre largely listens to Ms. Margaret W. Wong, a person who he considers to be an excellent policy advocate for the foreign-born. Since he is know and respected by leaders of both major parties, Pierre does his best to pass on Ms. Wong’s suggestions to those initiate the strategies.
In terms of the future, Pierre hopes eventually peace will be established in the countries of the Middle East and others throughout the world. He would like to help those who immigrate to the United States appreciate how wonderful it is to live in a place of so many freedoms and so little serious dissension. In turn, he wants to help those who already live here to be to acquire a greater appreciative of people who represent other cultures.
“We need to establish peace and harmony as one community,” Pierre thoughtfully surmised, “not individual silos.”