Did you know these famous Americans have Arab backgrounds?

April is Arab-American Heritage Month


Most people are not aware that April is Arab-American Heritage Month, which highlights the contributions of this diverse population. Many are also not aware that while the majority of Arabs worldwide are Muslim, most Arab-Americans are Christian. Among them are scientists (clockwise from upper-left) like Dr. Michael DeBakey, world-renowned cardiac surgeon, innovator, scientist, medical educator, and inventor of the heart pump. Elias Zerhouni was appointed by George W. Bush in May 2002 as director of the National Institutes of Health. Two Arab-Americans have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry – Dr. Elias Corey in 1990 and Dr. Ahmed H. Zewail in 1999.

There has been a significant number of governors, senators, and Congresspersons of Arab Christian descent, along with other government officials. They include (clockwise from upper-left) Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton; Spencer Abraham, Michigan Senator and Secretary of Energy; George J. Mitchell, Maine Senator and Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995; John H. Sununu, Governor of New Hampshire and Chief of Staff to George H.W. Bush and his son John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Senator. Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney.


The field of entertainment has long boasted renowned entertainers, singers and actors of Arab descent including (clockwise from upper-left) Danny and Marlo Thomas, Casey Kasem, Paula Abdul, Tony Shalhoub, Salma Hayek, and Jerry Seinfeld. While in the past most of these entertainers have been Christian, in recent years there have been a growing number of up and coming young Muslim performers. These include first American Muslim country music singer Kareem Salama, and comedians Dean Obeidallah and Ahmed Ahmed.

Arab-American writers include (clockwise from upper-left) Gibran Khalil Gibran, Naomi Shihab Nye, Mona Simpson, and journalist Anthony Shadid, who was recently killed while covering the conflict in Syria. But perhaps the most famous American of Arab heritage is Mona Simpson’s brother Steve Jobs, who changed the world forever before passing on. These and other Americans of Arab origin are a testament to the vibrancy and diversity of America.