Princess Ameera al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia
Patti Smith, Godmother of Punk; author, National Book Award Winning Just Kids
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As Vice-Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees and Head of the Executive Committee of the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation in Saudi Arabia and the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation – Global, HH Princess Ameera supports a wide range of humanitarian interests in both Saudi Arabia and around the world. The Foundation is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting programs and projects aimed at poverty alleviation, disaster relief, interfaith dialogue and, perhaps most importantly at this time in our history, women’s empowerment.
Princess Ameera, the wife of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, travels extensively on behalf of the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundations in an effort to better understand the most pressing challenges facing our world. In visiting NGOs and other aid and development organizations, she aims to improve and promote the image of Saudi women as she represents the Foundations, implementing projects and conducting field service trips.
Abroad, the Princess has inaugurated the “Alwaleed Bin Talal Village” orphanage in Burkina Faso and traveled to Pakistan to provide aid and relief to the country’s flood victims. Together with Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Ameera also formally opened the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, where she accepted from Prince Philip an 800th Anniversary Medal for Outstanding Philanthropy. Most recently she has spearheaded a relief mission to Somalia, where she and her husband, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal oversaw the distribution of Foundation-sponsored aid.
Princess Ameera has spoken out publicly in the US on NBC’s Today, CNN International  and NPR, as well as in Time magazine and Foreign Policy Magazine in support of both women’s right to drive in her country of Saudi Arabia and the broader issue of women’s overall empowerment to contribute fully in Saudi society. She has been featured in Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and The Huffington Post and was interviewed by Piers Morgan. She spoke in a special session at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative titled “Voices for Change in the Middle East & North Africa,” in which she discussed her views on the current movements for change in the region with U.S. President Bill Clinton. Her self-described approach to reform is one of “evolution, not revolution,” and it is this positive and determined perspective that defines her view of the future of her country. Princess Ameera was recently interviewed by Charlie Rose on Bloomberg to speak about her work for equal rights and women’s empowerment in Saudi Arabia through Alwaleed Foundations.
Princess Ameera is a magna cum laude graduate of University of New Haven with a degree in Business Administration. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Silatech, an international youth employment organization with a focus on youth empowerment in the Arab world through the creation of jobs and greater economic opportunities, and by working to find new and innovative approaches to the challenge of unemployment in the region. She is an honorary member of the Disabled Children’s Association and an honorary board member of the Saudi Volunteering Society.
In 2010, Princess Ameera received the ITP Special “Humanitarian Award” on behalf of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation at the Arabian Business Achievement Awards ceremony. She was the most high-profile newcomer to CEO Middle East 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2012 list, arriving in fourth place. She also received the “ Woman Personality of the Year Award” from the Middle East Excellence Award Institute.
From a report of Bryn Mawr College professor, Susan Gregory Thomas, on Smith winning the college’s prestigious Hepburn Award
And Patti, as mother to her brilliant, wayward, and courageous son of sorts, writes of Robert’s corporeal and spiritual beauty: “’…it occurred to me looking around at all your things and your work and going through years of work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still the most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.’”
On a personal note, I can’t help but offer up my own Patti as mother story. I have always given each of my three children royal monikers, for our mutual amusement (and the hope that some awesome painter will want to portray a regal portrait of them). My eldest, 12, is Zuzu the Just, for her ferocious sense of ethics and fairness; my youngest, almost 4, is Will the Undaunted, for his intrepid cast of mind and body. My middle child, 9, is Frances the Blessed, because she is a sort of changeling, who does not believe that any lines exist between magic, science, and spirituality. Her career goal, she told my a few months ago, is to be “a quantum physicist who discovers the dimension where souls are located.” Awesome.
Naturally, I took Frances (or, as we more often call her, “Frankie”), as my date for Bryn Mawr’s Hepburn Award ceremony in Patti Smith’s honor. We had brought her a present, a talismanic piece of jewelry, a necklace made by dark/light jewelry designer J. Rudy Lewis: a bronze wishbone on a leather cord, with one of our favorite things that we’ve heard Patti say before and after her concerts.
Patti noticed Frankie right away, and leaned down to accept our gift, for which she thanked us graciously, but also with alarm: “But what am I going to give you as a present?” she asked Frankie. She searched her jacket and pockets and smiled, drawing out her gift, a simple silk black ribbon of the sort she is famous for wearing. “I have had this in my pocket for five years, all during the time I was in Japan, and it is my good luck charm,” she said, pressing it into Frankie’s palm. “And this is my present to you.” Frankie whispered, “Thank you,” amazed and mute with honor.
After the ceremony, some faculty, including me, were to have our photos taken with Patti. When it was my turn, Frankie shyly told Patti the words that were inscribed on the necklace we had brought her: “It says, ‘I’d like to thank God I’m alive.’” Patti leaned down, hugged and kissed her, looked at Frankie in the eye and said: “And I am, honey. I am.” Patti then politely shooed the adults away and told Frankie that she would like to have her photograph taken with her.
And there they were: my blessed baby, Frankie, and the magical survivor and genius, Patti Smith. My soul was magnified.