April is National Arab American Heritage Month

During National Arab American Heritage Month, the United States celebrates its more than 3.5 million Arab American citizens.

They are diverse, representing every Arab country, major world religion and profession.  The majority were born in the United States and have ancestral ties to Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian territories and Syria.

According to the Arab American Institute, the largest Arab American communities live in California, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

Woman placing sign reading 'Vote Today' in English and Arabic (© Farah Nosh/Getty Images)
Fayrouz Saad places signs in English and Arabic on the side of the road encouraging people to vote November 2, 2004, in Dearborn, Michigan. (© Farah Nosh/Getty Images)

In the city of Dearborn, Michigan, some street signs and shop names are written in both Arabic and English. Dearborn also hosts the Arab American National Museum, which showcases Arab American culture and contributions to American society.

President Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken highlighted the beginning of National Arab American Heritage Month with messages of gratitude.

“The history and story of the Arab American community is deeply woven into the diverse tapestry of America, “ Biden said in a tweet. “This National Arab American Heritage Month, I thank the community for all that you have done to help move us forward and for representing the best of who we are.”

Blinken emphasized the long history of Arab American contributions from America. “Immigrants with origins from the Arab world have been arriving to the United States since before our country’s independence and have contributed to our nation’s advancements in science, business, technology, foreign policy, and national security,” he said in a statement.

An estimated 12 percent of Arab Americans work in public service positions, according to the group Arab Americans in Foreign Affairs Agencies (AAIFAA).  The Biden-Harris administration’s leadership is the most diverse ever, with many Arab Americans serving in senior roles. They include:

  • Suzy George, chief of staff to Secretary Blinken.
  • Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs.
  • Sara Minkara, the U.S. special advisor on international disability rights.
  • Kelly Razzouk, chief of staff for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
  • Reema Dodin, deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
  • Fayrouz Saad, director of public engagement at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
  • Christine Abizaid, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

During an April 1 event featuring Arab American women in diplomacy, retired U.S. Ambassador Susan Ziadeh reflected on her career. She described diversity as America’s strength and the unique opportunity she had to represent the United States and champion U.S. values.

Ziadeh recalled one instance when her Arab American identity had been an advantage in the Middle East: “We were negotiating … and I was the only one [in the American delegation] who understood the Arabic [being spoken] in the room … I used language, culture and context to be able to get results.”

People walking away from airplane (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)
U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Susan Ziadeh, left, walks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, and Ambassador Ibrahim Fakhroo, Qatari Chief of Protocol, on Kerry’s arrival in Doha, Qatar, on June 22, 2013. (© Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

Arab Americans make important contributions in the United States and beyond. Whether in diplomacy, business or the arts, Arab Americans connect people.

“Be the hardest person working in the room,” Ziadeh says. “One can have an impact in ways that you never thought possible.”