A brochure by
Casey Kasem and published by the Arab American
Institute Foundation. Updated in 2005. Download
“Arab Americans: Making a
You talk about
courage … How about America’s and the world’s first
jet ace? He was the Korean War hero, U.S. Air Force
Col. James Jabara. In World War II, Army
officers like Maj. Gen. Fred Safay fought
alongside Gen. Patton, and Brig. Gen. Elias
Stevens served on Gen. Eisenhower’s staff.
And in 1944, one
of our Navy’s ships, the destroyer escort USS Naifeh,
was named in honor of an Arab American hero, Navy
Lt. Alfred Naifeh of Oklahoma. Retired
Brigadier General James J. David served as
Company Commander of the famous 101st Airborne
Division in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. More recently,
West Point graduate and retired four-star Gen.
George Joulwan was the NATO Supreme Allied
Commander of Europe, where he commanded both
European and U.S. troops. Brig. Gen. William J.
Jabour is the Director of the Air Force Program
Executive Office for Fighter and Bomber programs in
charge of the F-22 System Program Office (SPO).
General John Abizaid is head of U.S. Central
Command in Iraq.
Some of us work
in our nation’s capital, like veteran Congressmen
Nick Joe Rahall II (West Virginia), Ray
LaHood (Illinois), Charles Boustany
(Louisiana), Darrell Issa (California),
Senator John E. Sununu (New Hampshire) and
former Congressman John Baldacci who is now
the Governor of Maine.
Americans were appointed to President George W.
Bush’s first term Cabinet: former Director of the
Office of Management and Budget Mitchell E.
Daniels, Jr., who is now the Governor of Indiana
and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer
Abraham. The first Arab American ever appointed
to a Cabinet secretary post was Donna Shalala,
the nation’s longest serving Secretary of Health and
Human Services, and now president of the University
of Miami. Former Governor of New Hampshire John
H. Sununu became the White House Chief of Staff
under Pres. George Bush, Sr., and later a political
commentator on CNN.
longest-serving White House Chief of Protocol,
serving seven-and-a-half years under President
Reagan, was Ambassador Selwa Roosevelt.
Thomas Nassif and Edward Gabriel both
served as U.S. Ambassador to Morocco. Our Ambassador
to Syria was Theodore Kattouf, and
Marcelle Wahba was Ambassador to the United Arab
Emirates. The late ambassador Philip C. Habib
served as Special Presidential Envoy to the Middle
East and was awarded the Presidential Medal of
Freedom. Feisty Helen Thomas, who served for
57 years as a correspondent for United Press
International and was dean of the White House press
corps, is a Hearst newspaper syndicated columnist.
In a class by himself, the late, warm-hearted
Robert George portrayed Santa Claus year-round
for nearly 50 years and was a Presidential Santa at
the White House through seven administrations.
Others who have
served in high elected office are: former U.S.
Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who
brokered a peace deal in Northern Ireland and led a
peace commission to the Middle East; former U.S.
Senators James Abourezk and James Abdnor,
both of South Dakota; and former Congressional
members Pat Danner of Missouri, Mary Rose
Oakar of Ohio, the late George Kasem of
California, who was the first Arab American elected
to the U.S. Congress, Abraham Kazen, Jr. of
Texas, Toby Moffett of Connecticut, and
Chris John of Lousiana. Victor Atiyeh was
the popular governor of Oregon. And in San Diego,
city clerk Charles Abdelnour pioneered the
legislation to create the “all-mail ballot” which
set a national precedent and earned him an
international reputation in election law.
Chargers quarterback Doug Flutie, who threw
the “miracle touchdown” pass for Boston College, won
the Heisman Trophy in 1984. He previously played for
several NFL teams and was a superstar in the
Canadian Football League. There’s also NFL player
Jeff George, who quarterbacked several NFL
teams, and former NFL coach Rich Kotite.
Don’t forget former Chicago Bears linebacker and NFL
Hall of Famer Bill George, or former
Cleveland Brown Abe Gibran. Another NFL
player is Drew Haddad of the Indianapolis
Colts. The former owner of the Miami Dolphins was
coach Jim Harrick took his team to the NCAA
playoffs eight years in a row, winning the national
championship in 1995. The late George Maloof, Sr.
owned the NBA’s Houston Rockets; today his sons,
Joe and Gavin Maloof, own the Sacramento Kings.
baseball player Joe Lahoud played with the
Boston Red Sox and Sam Khalifa played for the
Pittsburgh Pirates. And Fred Saigh once owned
baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals.
In auto racing,
Bobby Rahal won the Indy 500 in 1986, later
becoming the all-time earnings champ among Indy car
racers. The founder of the Professional Bowlers
Association was the late Eddie Elias. In the
ring, Petey Sarron won the world
featherweight championship in 1936-1937. Zuhair
“Steve” Mansour was weightlifting’s Grandmaster
of the World in 1990. And a four-time U.S. National
Chess Champion and Grandmaster is Seattle’s
Yasser Seirawan. Women’s International Chess
Master Jennifer Shahade won the 2002 and 2004
U.S. Women’s Chess Championships. The late Dr.
Elias Ghanem, former chairman of the Nevada
Athletic Commission and Las Vegas’own physician to
the stars, once treated celebrities like Elvis
Presley, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers,
and Paul Anka. In track and field, the world record
holder for the marathon is Arab American Khalid
activists, can you think of two people who have
saved more lives than America’s foremost consumer
advocate and Green party presidential candidate
Ralph Nader and the founder of MADD (Mothers
Against Drunk Driving) Candy Lightner. MADD
is the largest crime victims’ assistance
organization in the world, with more than 3 million
members and supporters.
Back in 1960,
Ralph Johns, an active participant in the civil
rights movement, encouraged the famous Woolworth
“sit-in” at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North
The founder of an
international, billion-dollar engineering firm,
Jacobs Engineering Group, is the late Dr. Joseph
Jacobs. A former chemist with dozens of patents
became Armand Hammer’s successor as chairman of the
board, president, and chief executive officer of
Occidental Petroleum — Dr. Ray Irani.
Najeeb Halaby, former head of the Federal
Aviation Administration, was CEO of Pan-American
Airlines. His daughter, Lisa, married King Hussein
of Jordan and became the only Arab American to be
queen of a foreign country, Queen Noor.
was formerly the president and CEO of Ford Motor
Company. Richard Caleal created the
“revolutionary” 1949 Ford car design, a design that
some credit with saving the company. The chairman of
the board of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is
Samir G. Gibara. The late Stephen Yokich
served five terms as vice president of the
International United Auto Workers union, then became
its president. Ned Mansour was formerly the
president of Mattel, Inc., maker of Barbie dolls and
other toys. The founder and president of Thomas
Nelson Publishers, the largest world-wide
distributor of the Bible, is Sam Moore.
Syrian immigrant Ernest Hamwi created the
first ice-cream cone at the 1904 St. Louis World’s
Fair and, a few years later, Lebanese immigrant
Albert George founded Pennsylvania’s Joy Cone
Company, the country’s largest ice-cream cone
is Chairman of the Board and CEO of Morgan Stanley,
one of America’s largest investment banking firms.
Dr. Raymond Jallow is an internationally
respected economic advisor to governments and
institutions, lecturing in financial capitals around
the world. Youssef A. Nasr was the president
and CEO of HSBC USA, a leading financial services
organization and the third largest depository
institution. William Hanna is the founding
president and CEO of Cedars Bank, a wholly Arab
American owned commercial bank headquartered in Los
Angeles. The chairman of the board and CEO of Fresh
Del Monte Produce, Inc. is Mohammed Abu-Ghazaleh
and second generation Lebanese American Andrew
Thomas is President and CEO of Heinekin USA.
is the CEO and founder of Farouk Systems USA, a
premier hair and skin care company that introduced
environmentally safe products for hairdressers.
Lebanese-American Richard E. Rainwater built
his reputation managing investments for Texas’
wealthy Bass family and earned millions for himself
as a result. He recently set up a $120 million trust
for Stanford and the University of South Carolina.
Egyptian-born Texas billionaire Fayez Sarofim
heads Fayez Sarofim Investments and manages the
Houston Fine Arts Museum’s $300 million endowment.
is credited with founding Andersen Consulting, now
called Accenture, and served as CEO and managing
partner as part of a 30-year career at the world’s
biggest consulting firm. Roger Farah is
president and chief operating officer of Polo Ralph
Lauren and previously served as chairman of the
board of Venator Group, Inc., the parent company of
Footlocker. The “new economy” has its share of Arab
American heroes as well: Simon Assad is the
co-CEO of Heavy.com, a music site that was nominated
for a Webby, the Internet’s highest honor. One of
America’s preeminent pollsters, keeping tabs on
public opinion and other statistics John Zogby
of Zogby International.
founded the world’s biggest international chain of
copying service stores, Kinko’s; while the late
Waleed Ali and his brother Malik founded
MPI, the world’s largest home-video distributor of
documentaries. The Palms, a Maloof Casino Resort in
Las Vegas, is operated by George Maloof, Jr.
Entrepreneur ony Ismail founded the Alamo
Flag Company in Dallas and built it into the largest
retailer of flags and related items in the U.S.
The Texas lawyer
who won the biggest business settlement in U.S.
history, on behalf of Pennzoil ($10 billion
dollars!), is one of this country’s most successful
attorneys, Joseph D. Jamail. In the famous
“zoot suit” trial of the 1940s, George Shibley
defended unjustly accused Mexican-Americans in Los
Angeles. In the 1990s, the late Edward Masry
and Erin Brockovich filed a direct action lawsuit
against Pacific Gas and Electric for polluting the
drinking water of Hinkley, CA. Their efforts secured
the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S.
history, $333 million in damages, and was chronicled
in the blockbuster film starring Julia Roberts and
singer-songwriter Paul Anka became one of
America’s first pop teen idols. The late ukelele-plucking,
falsetto-singing Herbert Khaury became famous
as “Tiny Tim.” And in the world of rock, there was
the late, legendary Frank Zappa. On the West
Coast, Dick Dale is the “King of the Surf Guitar.”
Singer-dancer-choreographer Paula Abdul has
had two number-one albums, six number-one singles, a
Grammy award, and worldwide album sales exceeding 30
million records. And the first teenage singer ever
to have her first two singles both hit number one is
Tiffany, born Renee Darwish. Pop star
Shakira, of Colombian and Lebanese descent, has
scored on the U.S. charts and is a multiple Grammy
music, three of America’s landmark music shows on
radio were created by Arab Americans, Don Bustany
and me — “American Top 40,” “American Top 20,”and
“American Country Countdown.” On Broadway,
playwright Fred Saidy wrote two classics,
“Finian’s Rainbow” and “Bloomer Girl.” Opera prima
donna Rosalind Elias hit the high notes at
the Met. And for avant-garde “Dancer of the Year” in
1992, the New York Times picked a 20-year Broadway
veteran with the Paul Taylor Company — Elie Chaib.
David Yazbek wrote the lyrics and score for
“The Full Monty.”
directors, two Arab Americans have each helmed over
300 episodes for the networks. Asaad Kelada
has done numerous series like “Family Ties” and
episodes of “The Facts of Life,” “Dharma &
Greg,”“Everybody Loves Raymond,” etc. After
directing Broadway hits like “Sweet Charity,” “Mame,”
and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” John Bowab
switched to TV and has directed episodes of the
classic hit “The Cosby Show” as well as “My Wife &
Kids” and “Life with Bonnie.”
Did you know…
highest-rated episode in television history was the
last episode of “M*A*S*H”? And who played the role
of not-so-crazy Corporal Klinger for its entire
11-year run? A talented Arab American from Toledo,
Ohio, Jamie Farr.
On NBC, “Saturday
Night Live’s” bandleader for many years was
guitarist G.E. Smith. (His family’s Lebanese
name, Haddad, means blacksmith).
Lebanese in America was also the founder of St.
Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital — the late,
great comedian and actor Danny Thomas. His
son is a television and film producer and multi-Emmy
winner for “The Golden Girls” and other TV shows —Tony
Emmy Award-winning Marlo Thomas, was the
first actress ever to play a single, independent
young woman in the TV series, “That Girl.” She
currently appears on TV’s “Friends” as Rachel’s
mother and published a book, “The Right Words at the
The leading man
who starred in the movies “Flashdance” and “Finding
Forrester” was Michael Nouri, who also
starred in TV’s “Love and War” sitcom. The
box-office hits “Swingers”, “The Lost World:
Jurassic Park”, and “The Wedding Crashers” starred
Vince Vaughn, who has a Lebanese grandparent.
whose father is from Egypt, played Nina Van Horn on
NBC’s hit show “Just Shoot Me.” and Tony Shalhoub,
now starring in USA Network’s series “Monk,” and Amy
Yasbeck appeared in the hit sitcom “Wings” — the
first time two Arab Americans have been featured in
the same TV series. Amy has also starred in films
including Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
Tony has moved to the big screen as well, in both
“Men in Black ” films, “The Siege,” “A Civil
Action,” and “Thirteen Ghosts” (with fellow Arab
Americans F. Murray Abraham and Shannon
soft-hearted Mel in TV’s “Alice” was portrayed by
the late Vic Tayback. One of the co-stars of
the series “Empty Nest” was Kristy McNichol.
A star of TV’s “Head of the Class” was once picked
by People Magazine as one of the “50 most beautiful
people in the U.S.” — Khrystyne Haje.
Two other fine
movie and television actors who also starred in
popular TV dramas are James Stacy, who played
the main role in “Laramie,” and Michael Ansara,
who played Cochise in “Broken Arrow.”
comic actress from San Diego, Kathy Najimy,
played a fun-loving nun in the “Sister Act” films.
She co-starred as Olive, a Lebanese-American, in
NBC-TV’s “Veronica’s Closet” with Kirstie Alley.
Kathy is the voice of Peggy Hill on Fox-TV’s
animated hit “King of the Hill.” Shannon
Elizabeth of “American Pie,” “Scary Movie,” and
“Tomcats” is of Lebanese and Syrian ancestry.
The former head
of Carolco Pictures, handling the “Rocky,” “Rambo,”
and “Terminator” films, was “billion-dollar
producer” Mario Kassar. The producer of the
epic “The Message: The Story of Islam” (a biography
of the Prophet Mohammed) and “Lion of the Desert,”
not to mention all the blockbuster “Halloween”
chillers, is the late Moustapha Akkad.
Hayek, who is of Lebanese and Mexican descent,
is another actress who has lit up the small screen
(in cable TV’s movie “The Hunchback,” as the gypsy
Esmeralda) and the big screen (Oscar-winning
“Traffic,” “Desperado,” “Wild Wild West,” and “Frida,”
about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo). The director of
Jim Carrey’s loony comedy hits “Ace Ventura: Pet
Detective” and “Liar, Liar,” Eddie Murphy’s “The
Nutty Professor,” and Robin Williams’ “Patch Adams”
is Tom Shadyac. Together, these films have
grossed more than $1 billion worldwide.
Prize for biography (“Jackson Pollack: An American
Saga”) was shared by the author of three other
national bestsellers: writer-publisher Steven
Naifeh of South Carolina. The book was later
adapted into an Academy award-winning film (best
is chairman and owner of Franchise Pictures, which
produced such films as “The Heist,” “Angel Eyes,”
“The Whole Nine Yards,” and “Battlefield Earth.”
Academy Award-winning film producer Ronald
Schwary is best known for his work with
“Tootsie,” “Meet Joe Black,” and “Scent of a Woman.”
Jehane Noujaim co-directed and co-produced
“Startup.com” and in 2004 directed “Control Room”.
One of show
business’ legendary talent managers was the late
George “Bullets” Durgom, who, through the years,
managed Jackie Gleason, Sammy Davis, Jr., and
Marilyn Monroe, to mention a few. Two of today’s top
recording stars’ husband-managers are of Arab
descent: Rene Angelil, discoverer and manager
of wife Celine Dion, and Cuban-born Emilio
Estefan, manager and producer of wife Gloria
Award-winning cinematographer-director George S.
Dibie is president of the International
Photographers Guild. Fouad Said was the
cinematographer who designed Cinemobile, the first
customized van for filming on location, while
working on the TV series “I Spy.” For this
achievement, he received a Technical Academy Award
American Oscar winners include F. Murray Abraham,
who won Best Actor for the movie “Amadeus.”
Screenwriter and novelist William Peter Blatty
won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for
“The Exorcist,” a huge box office hit based on his
novel of the same name. Recipient of an Oscar for
Best Original Screenplay for “Thelma and Louise” and
director of the “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya
Sisterhood” is Callie Khourie. The late
composer Paul Jabara won an Oscar award for
Best Song, Donna Summer’s ”Last Dance” from the
movie “Thank God, It’s Friday.” Set decorator
Emile Kuri won two Oscars for his splendid work
on “The Heiress” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
He received a total of eight Academy Award
nominations and later designed many exhibits at
is host and executive producer of “The Diane Rehm
Show” on National Public Radio (NPR). George
Noory’s talk show “Coast to Coast AM” can be
heard on over 500 stations nationwide. The man who
pioneered the concept of a radio programming
consultant in 1958 is Mike Joseph, who’s
helped organizations like ABC, CBS, and NBC, among
television, Lucie Salhany became the first
woman to head a television network, as chair of Fox
Broadcasting Co., then of United Paramount Network.
Tammy Haddad, the creator of “Larry King
Live,” is Executive Producer of “Buchanan & Press.”
CNN senior editor and anchor Octavia E. Nasr
has been named CNN’s first senior editor for Arab
affairs. Hoda Kotb is a correspondent for
NBC’s “Dateline” and Jim Avila, who is of
Lebanese and Mexican descent, is a national
correspondent for NBC News.
On the print
side, the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for International
Reporting went to Washington Post correspondent
Anthony Shadid while the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for
Investigative Reporting went to the Toledo Blade’s
Edward Said was a Columbia professor and
well-known literary and social critic, as well as a
respected music reviewer, and wrote a column
appearing in “The Nation.” Professor Said authored
more than a dozen volumes on everything from the
Middle East to English literature. Jack Shaheen,
emeritus professor of mass communications at
Southern Illinois University and author of books
like “The TV Arab” and “Reel Bad Arabs: How
Hollywood Vilifies a People,” has also been CBS
News’ consultant for the Middle East. David
Adamany was the longest-serving president of
Wayne State University in Detroit and currently
serves as Temple University’s president.
For an inspiring
success story, try that of writer-lecturer on
business and success, Nido Qubein. When he
came to the United States as a teenager, he could
barely speak English. He went on to become president
of the National Speakers’ Association and the
youngest member inducted into the International
Speakers’ Hall of Fame.
CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award for 1989
and 1990 went to Arab American Joseph Abboud
of New York. He’s the only designer to win the award
two years in a row. Supermodel Yamila Diaz-Rahi,
who is of Lebanese and Spanish descent, landed the
coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover in
2002. She has also graced the covers of “Marie
Claire,” “Elle,” “GQ,” and “Shape.”
One of America’s
most sought-after hairstylists, Frederic Fekkai,
boasts clients such as Claudia Schiffer, Kim
Basinger, and Renee Zellweger.
immigrant J.M. Haggar started Haggar Clothing
Co. in 1926. It became one of the world’s best-known
brands in men’s apparel. The company is now a
multi-million dollar enterprise that is headed by
J.M. Haggar III, who serves as chairman and CEO.
In addition, Farah Brothers manufactures
men’s and women’s slacks, and Maloof Brothers
manufactured Mod-O-Day women’s dresses. Norma
Kamali, who designs everything from clothing and
cosmetics to eyeglasses, is of Arab ancestry.
Reem Acra is one of the world’s preeminent
designers of bridal fashions and is known for her
elaborate embroideries. Hair accessories and jewelry
designer Colette Malouf began her rise to the
top in 1987 with the “Malouf Poof.” She is known for
her innovative use of exotic materials and her
also have made significant contributions to the art
world. America’s most honored woodworker, Sam
Maloof is an award-winning artisan whose
creations have appeared in the White House, the
Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of
Art, the Vatican, and other renowned exhibit halls.
Retired heart surgeon Dr. Hussam A. Fadhli is
an award-winning sculptor whose work is displayed
around the world, including the Bush Presidential
Library. Prolific industrial designer Karim
Rashid is among the major talents of
21st-century design with work in New York’s Museum
of Modern Art.
The first woman
to design a major American art museum, Cincinnati’s
$34 million Contemporary Art Center, is Iraqi-born
Zaha Hadid. Artist Ghada Amer’s hand
embroidered paintings were selected for the Whitney
Biennial 2000 and the Venice Biennale in 1999.
Naomi Shihab Nye is an award-winning poet and
author of children’s literature.
One of America’s
most famous pioneers is Houston surgeon Dr.
Michael DeBakey, who invented the heart pump.
Today he’s chancellor of Baylor University’s College
of Medicine. Algerian-American Dr. Elias Zerhouni
is the director of the National Institutes of
Two winners of
the Nobel Prize for Chemistry are Arab American.
Dr. Ahmed H. Zewail, a professor of physics at
the California Institute of Technology (CIT), is the
1999 winner. The 1990 winner is Harvard’s Dr.
Elias Corey. Also at CIT is Dr. Charles
Elachi, who was selected to head up the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory. A pioneer in the field of
electrical engineering, inventor Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah
worked for the General Electric Company (GE) in the
1920s and 30s. His research led to 52 patent
applications, among them innovations in solar energy
and television tubes.
George A. Doumani’s explorations helped prove
the theory of continental drift; he has a mountain
peak named after him in Antarctica. Another American
geologist, Dr. Farouk el-Baz, born in Egypt,
helped plan all the Apollo moon landings and later
pioneered the use of space photography to study the
courageous astronauts who lost their lives aboard
the space shuttle Challenger represented several
racial and ethnic groups: African-American,
Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Anglo-American,
Jewish-American — and Arab American: schoolteacher
heard this quote before:
“Ask not what
your country can do for you, ask what you can do for
your country” — a famous quote by an Irish-American
president, John F. Kennedy, that inspired an entire
These words were
first written by, among others, the Arab American
author of “The Prophet,” Kahlil Gibran. And that
sentiment, so beautifully expressed by Gibran more
than 70 years ago, has inspired Americans of all
We Arab Americans
are proud of our heritage and proud to be Americans.
It’s this pride that keeps us all asking, “What can
we do for our country?”— the good old U.S.A.