Making An Impact
Arab American contributions have enriched the political, economic and cultural landscape of American life. Arab Americans are inventors and innovators; they are doctors and engineers; they are entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians, activists and entertainers. They are immigrants, or children and grandchildren of immigrants, whose hard work, determination, creativity, and commitment made it possible for them to succeed in their professions. Their achievements are as multifaceted as the communities from which they have emerged. And for everyone who has become a leader in their field, there are thousands of others whose unacknowledged contributions continue to impact all of us.
Kathy Najimy is an award-winning stage and screen actress, having starred in films such as Sister Act and Hocus Pocus, and on television as the voice of Peggy Hill on the Emmy Award-winning animated series King of the Hill. As an activist, Najimy has been honored for her work with the LGBTQ+ community and for dedication to animal rights. She received the Humanitarian of the Year award in 2000 from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
George Spiro Dibie
George Dibie is a multiple Emmy Award-winning cinematographer whose TV credits include shows such as Barney Miller, Murphy Brown, Night Court, Growing Pains and Mr. Belvedere. Born and raised in Jerusalem, he studied at the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts. He had his first big break supervising camera work on the Barney Miller show. In 1985, he became the first National President of the International Cinematographer Guild. He is also the first individual inducted into the Showbiz Expo Hall of Fame.
At the age of eight, Yemeni American Sadam Ali was inspired to start boxing by Yemeni British boxer “Prince” Naseem Hamed. When he was 17, Ali won the featherweight division of the 2006 National Golden Gloves Championship and a year later won the lightweight division. He represented Team USA at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. As a professional in the welterweight division, Ali remained undefeated for the first six years of his career and earned the title of WBO Junior Middleweight champ in 2017.
Jordyn Wieber grew up in Michigan and won gold as a member of the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team at the 2012 Olympics in London. Wieber has Lebanese ancestry and apparently loved to eat malfouf (cabbage) while training.
When the astronauts of Apollo 15 circled the moon for the first time, they felt they were in familiar territory thanks to the training by Farouk El-Baz. From 1968 to 1972, El-Baz helped plan the Apollo moon landings and pioneered the use of space photography to study Earth. His research is also used to understand arid terrain and locate groundwater resources. In 1986, the Egyptian-born El-Baz became the director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University.
Nujoud Merancy is a systems engineer that has worked with spacecraft and spaceflight since 2001. She is the Chief of the Exploration Mission Planning Office for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) where she manages the integration and design of the Artemis missions, which plan to land the first woman on the moon. Merancy made a splash on the internet in 2019 when she posted her official NASA photo featuring a blazer embroidered with Palestinian tatreez. Merancy’s Palestinian family, on her dad’s side, comes from Nazareth and she purchased the tatreez on a visit there, later having it custom tailored onto her blazer.
Cited by the World Almanac in 1976 as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America, Lebanese American Helen Thomas earned the title “First Lady of the Press” for her role as dean of the White House Press Corps and her work as a White House bureau chief. For 57 years, Thomas served as White House correspondent for United Press International, covering every U.S. president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. She was the only female print journalist to travel with President Richard Nixon during his landmark trip to China in January 1972.
In January 2019, Rashida Tlaib became the first Palestinian American woman in the U.S. Congress and one of the first Muslim American women to serve in the House of Representatives. Born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants, Tlaib is the eldest of 14 siblings. A tireless community advocate, Tlaib was the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan State Legislature in 2008. In 2018, Tlaib won the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Michigan’s 13th congressional district.