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Museum Shows Pose the Question: Who is the

posted on: Jan 28, 2012

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When the Founding Fathers drafted the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, their definition of “We, the People” was essentially people just like themselves – free white men. Today, “We” are a much more inclusive group, yet many still believe that minorities and immigrants are somehow not worthy of being called Americans.

The Arab American National Museum is pleased to present the innovative, experiential exhibition Fighting for Democracy: Who is the ‘We” in “We, the People”? as a companion to its current exhibition Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to Our Country.

Fighting for Democracy opens with a public reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2; both exhibitions run through June 10, 2012 and are free with Museum admission.

Created by the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles, California and currently on a national 10-city tour, Fighting for Democracy highlights the stories of seven diverse individuals, their service to their country during World War II, and their civic engagement that helped to change our American democracy for the betterment of all. This exhibition asks visitors to think critically about freedom, history, and, ultimately, the ongoing struggle to live democratically in a diverse America.

“By presenting Patriots & Peacemakers and Fighting for Democracy simultaneously, we bring attention and pay tribute not only to Arab Americans but to all minorities who have served our nation,” says AANM Director Dr. Anan Ameri. “While some today demonize and attack minorities and immigrants, it’s vital that we, as a nation, at this point in our history, understand the role these groups have played and continue to play in serving and protecting our nation.”

Fighting for Democracy uses World War II as a case study to begin discussion about how women and minorities have expanded the meaning of “we” in “we, the people.” It looks at the experiences of seven real people and traces their stories throughout the pre-war, war, and post-war periods as examples of the millions of Americans whose lives were affected by the war. They provide ways of helping viewers to understand the conditions facing Americans before and during World War II.

Those profiled in the exhibition include Hector Garcia of Mercedes, TX; Carl Gorman of Chinle, AZ; Hazel Ying Lee of Portland, OR; Domingo Los Banos of Kalaheo, HI; George Saito of Los Angeles, CA; Frances Slanger of Boston, MD; and Roger “Bill” Terry of Los Angeles, CA.

“Fighting for Democracy aims to teach young people that they too can shape American democracy,” says Akemi Kikumura Yano, president and CEO of the JANM. “We are hopeful that this traveling exhibition will inspire people with stories of remarkable Americans like George Saito and Hector Garcia and others and take it upon themselves to change our country for the better of all.”

Fighting for Democracy is presented by the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, an educational program of the Japanese American National Museum funded through a Congressional appropriation, to advance the understanding of, and commitment to, American democratic ideals. The Los Angeles exhibition and traveling version was funded in part by the U.S. Army Center of Military History. The traveling exhibition 10-city tour has been made possible through the generous support of The Boeing Company.

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The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves and presents Arab American history, culture and contributions. It is a project of ACCESS, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization. Learn more at www.arabamericanmuseum.org and www.accesscommunity.org.

The Arab American National Museum is a proud Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Read about the Affiliations program at http://affiliations.si.edu.

The Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI, 48126. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday; Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for students, seniors and children 6-12; ages 5 and under, free. Call 313.582.2266 for further information.