Celebrating National Arab American Heritage Month

Photo of Arab American women by Cedric Fauntleroy on Pexels

Arab Americans are responsible for advances in diplomacy, science, technology, civil rights, social justice, art, and culture. The U.S. Department of State estimates that Arab Americans account for around 3 million members of the country’s population. While Arab American Foundation started an initiative to celebrate Arab American Heritage Month in 2017, the official recognition of it by the government and the nation is much more recent, Ancestry reported.

Since 2022, the United States has dedicated the month of April to celebrating Americans with Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) heritage through social events and public education. The goal of this heritage month is to acknowledge the contributions of Arab Americans to the country. Find out how Arab American Heritage Month came to be and how Arab Americans have positively influenced life in the United States.

Origins of National Arab American Heritage Month

The inception of this important celebration began in 2021 when the White House released a letter on April 19, addressing Arab America and the Arab America Foundation. In this letter, Biden acknowledged Arab American Heritage Month on a federal level for the first time and thanked organizations for including him in the chance to celebrate the important history of Arab Americans.

However, it wasn’t until 2022, United States President Joe Biden officially declared April to be National Arab American Heritage Month. In a speech at the time of the announcement, Biden acknowledged the role that Arab American play in the diverse tapestry of the nation and how their innovations have positively impacted the United States long before the country gained its independence.

On the eve of Arab American Heritage Month 2023, Biden addressed the nation about the reason for the new celebration, saying “The Arab American story is the American story — one of diverse backgrounds and faiths, vibrant tradition, bold innovation, hard work, commitment together to accomplish something greater than any one of us.”

Biden also acknowledged in his address that while Arab Americans have done much to shape the nation, they continue to face instances of violence, bigotry, and prejudice in America. Arab American Heritage Month is a positive step toward ensuring Arab Americans feel safe and welcome in the United States.

Contributions and Achievements of Arab Americans

Internet Security: Egyptian-born cryptographer Taher Elgamal began work on internet security protocols in the 1980’s. He’s credited with creating the software for the Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA), which became the gold standard for electronic signatures in the United States. He’s also responsible for the creation of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol to keep digital communication secure.

Surgical Advancements: An American born to Lebanese immigrants, Michael DeBakey is a medical professional who served in the Surgical Consultants Division the Army Surgeon General’s Office between 1942 and 1946. During his employment there, he developed Mobile Auxiliary Surgical Hospital (MASH) unites, which were deployed in Vietnam and Korean conflict zones in 1943. He was the first person to successfully remove a carotid artery blockage and developed a method for coronary bypass.

The iPhone and iPod: Apple’s founder Steve Jobs is always credited with the inventions, now used in most Americans daily lives. But Anthony “Tony” Fadell is the Arab American engineer who co-created these devices and oversaw their development.

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