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Heritage Month: Arab Americans in Public Service

posted on: Apr 1, 2016

BY: Husayn Hosoda/Contributing Writer

We’ve all heard of Ralph Nader and we often cite him as the eminent Arab American in the domain of politics.  But as political rhetoric and speech seems to become all the more skewed against the Arab American community today, it’s also important to note the contributions and victories from all Arab Americans in politics.

What comes to mind first is former Chief of Protocol for the United States, an Arab American, Ambassador Selwa Roosevelt. The Chief of Protocol for the United States serves the President and Secretary of State in matters of diplomatic protocol, including arranging itineraries for foreign heads of state and dignitaries visiting the U.S.

Ambassador Selwa Roosevelt, the daughter of Lebanese Druze immigrants in Tennessee, was the longest serving individual to hold this position. She held the position of Chief for seven years under President Reagan, during which time she organized 1,000 visits to the U.S. from various world leaders. Her numerous awards and accolades include the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from the Department of the Army and a commendation from President Obama for her government service. Watch our interview with her below.

Another groundbreaking Arab American was Rosemary Barkett (changed from Barakat). Barkett was born to Syrian immigrants in Mexico and was the first woman to ever serve on the Florida Supreme Court. After serving in Florida, she was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. As of 2013, she has joined the Iran–United States Claims Tribunal, having been selected by the State Department to serve in The Hague for the case.

In addition to these two notable figures, Arab Americans can be seen at all levels of elected office. Some of the most recognizable are presiding Congressmen: Darin LaHood of Illinois, Justin Amash of Michigan, Charles Boustany and Ralph Abraham of Louisiana, Richard Hanna of New York, and Darrell Issa of California.

See all articles about National Arab American Heritage Month here.