This April, America250 celebrates the rich and diverse culture and contributions of Arab Americans to our nation. Acknowledgement of Arab American Heritage Month has been steadily increasing over the last decade, with the President, Congress, the Department of State, and governors across the nation issuing proclamations for the first time. I am proud to join these leaders and groups in celebrating the heritage, culture, and contributions of this large and growing community.

The community includes those who have immigrated from Arab nations across the Middle East and North Africa since the 16th century. Spanning generations and across science, technology, medicine, politics and art, Arab Americans have been a small, but mighty cornerstone of the melting pot of the United States. And as we approach our nation’s 250th anniversary, I have no doubt they will play a critical part in this major milestone. As part of that celebration, we’ll be highlighting the stories of Arab Americans, past and present, who have left their mark on America. Among them is a name you might recognize: Steve Jobs, whose innovations in computing, telecommunication, music, and the movie industry moved our country forward and connected our world. Although he was raised by his adoptive parents, Jobs had Syrian, German, and Swiss ancestry. His biological father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, was born in Homs, Syria, and immigrated to the United States in pursuit of education. Today, Steve Jobs’ legacy is all around us, in the products and services used by billions around the globe.

I also want to unearth some of the lesser known contributions of Arab Americans. People like Dr. Michael Debakey, the son of Lebanese immigrants and a pioneer in the world of medicine who worked toward the development of an artificial heart. Or the legendary journalist, Helen Thomas, born to immigrants from Tripoli, Lebanon. Thomas was one of the longest serving members of the White House press corps, covering the administrations of ten U.S. presidents. In the skies, Najeeb E. Halaby, whose father immigrated to the United States from Syria in 1891, made history piloting the first transcontinental jet flight and for his service as chairman of Pan Am from 1969 to 1972. And on land, Toni Breidinger, of Lebanese descent, became the first Arab American woman to compete in a NASCAR national series race.

As young Arab Americans today continue to draw inspiration from those who came before them, I stand in awe and appreciation of this community’s contributions throughout our history. I encourage all Americans to take part in this celebration by reading books by Arab American authors, learning about Arab American artists and filmmakers, or by supporting your favorite local Arab American businesses. This month is a reminder that diversity is our strength, and together, we can build a brighter and more inclusive future for all.

Happy Arab American Heritage Month!

Rosie Rios

Chair, America250

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