Sunday, June 15, 2014

Goodbye, Casey Kasem

A longtime hero of mine passed away this morning. More than any other actor, Casey Kasem always felt to me like the face of Arab-Americans. Whenever anyone asks me about famous Arabs, I invariably find myself naming him first.

I’ve always considered him one of the best role models in Hollywood for anyone to look up to. Sure, he had his bad days like anyone else (although even his vulgarity-laden paroxysms of frustration sound strangely mellifluous), but one can hardly deny that he worked extremely hard to accomplish what he accomplished. He hosted the Top 40 radio program for 34 years! He voiced Shaggy for 39 years! He worked on Sesame Street for 19 years! He voiced Robin for 17 years! He has also left a trail of humanitarian and political work that stretches for miles, such as helping Jerry Lewis on his annual telethons.

What can I say about a legend like Casey that others won’t have already said? I could talk about how much it saddens me to lose a personal hero and role model, but you’ll hear that from others who had a better connection and/or a better ability to articulate their grief. Instead, I wanted to share with you two of his accomplishments that I admire most. In addition to the example he set personally for decades, Kasem also wrote two pieces standing up for Arab Americans.

  • Arab Americans: Making a Difference: Kasem wrote this short brochure for the Arab-American Institute Foundation. He lists a number of Arab celebrities and role models. Notice that he humbly omits himself!
  • Arab Defamation in the Media: Its Consequences and Solutions: Here, Kasem beautifully articulates his own experiences as a famous Arab, as well as what he’s observed of Arabs in TV and film. He talks about the maligned images of reel Arabs and what we can do about it. He really says what I’ve tried to say with this blog since I began it.
Anyway, I find it hard to say goodbye to a man whom I’ve looked up to since childhood, but thankfully he gave us a lot to remember him by. Of course, my heart goes out to his family and friends, whom I hope have found the ability to put their recent legal differences aside. As trite or hokey as it may seem, I think we all know how he’d say farewell to us all if he could…

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!”

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