Posted by Guest on March 08, 2017 in Blog

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By Raneem Alkhatib

Women have made significant contributions worldwide and in all aspects of daily life. Today on International Women’s Day, we celebrate and highlight the accomplishments of women everywhere. Here’s a few Arab American women who’ve made a difference.

Christa McAuliffe, who was of Lebanese descent, was a teacher from New Hampshire and a participant in the NASA Teacher in Space Project. On January 28, 1986 Christa and the rest of the crew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger were killed when the orbiter exploded immediately after it launched. Multiple schools worldwide have been named after Christa, with numerous scholarships awarded in her name annually. 

Diane Rehm, an Arab American of Syrian descent is a renowned journalist and public radio talk show host. She is best known for her nationally and internationally distributed National Public Radio (NPR) program, The Diane Rehm Show, which she has hosted for more than 30 years. It became to be one of the most popular talk shows, with over two million listeners on 150 radio stations nationwide. In 2011, Rehm was named one of Washington’s “100 most powerful women.” In our nation’s capital, award winning radio talk show host Diane Rehm has been and continues to be a strong voice and representative for major public opinion, helping to facilitate outstanding national dialogue and the civil exchange of ideas between Americans and leading policy makers and journalists.

Donna E. Shalala is the president and CEO of the Clinton foundation. Shalala has spent her life working in academics and administration. She was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 as the U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services. From 2001-2015, Shalala served as the President of the University of Miami. In 2008, she was named one of the greatest public servants for the past 25 years by the Council on Excellence in Government. Shalala has over 40 honorary degrees and awards, including the Glamour magazine “Woman of the Year” award in 1994.

Marlo Thomas is an award winning actress, author and activist. Her Lebanese American father, famous comedian Danny Thomas was the founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She’s starred in television sitcoms, including That Girl, where she played a single, working class woman who lived on her own. She went on to found the Ms. Foundation for Women, a nonprofit that works to empower women through social, economic, and reproductive justice. Thomas has used her fame to shed light on gender inequality, and continues to empower women as the national Outreach Director for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

Teresa Issac served as the Lexington, Kentucky Mayor from 2003-2006. She advocated on behalf of Arab Americans as well as her own constituents. During her time in office, Lexington was named the 14th most livable city and the 9th place in America for business. Issac has worked to empower not only women, but all Arab Americans.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was the “whistleblower” of the Flint Water Crisis and continues to be one of the strongest advocates of the cause. Mona grew up in Michigan and is the daughter of Iraqi immigrants. She is currently the Director of Hurley Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Residency Program where she leads their Public Health Initiative with Michigan State University, which monitors the impact of lead in Flint’s water source.  Mona has been given many awards and has been featured on programs such as the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Naomi Shihab Nye is an American poet, songwriter and novelist of Palestinian descent. Her work has been acknowledged worldwide, and has been primarily focused on Palestinian and Arab themes and issues. Following the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Nye became an active voice for Arab Americans. She published a series of poems expressing what it meant to be an Arab American during that time, helping create a cultural space in for Americans of Arab descent.

Suzanne Sareini served as one of the councilwoman for Dearborn, Michigan’s City Council. Suzanne has also served as the Trustee of the Board of Directors for the Advanced Technology Academy Charter Public School, has served two terms on the Michigan Women’s Commission and is a board member on the National Policy Council for the Arab American Institute in Washington DC. Suzanne has worked to empower women, her community, and Arab Americans nationwide.

All these women, and hundreds more, have left a lasting legacy for not only Arab Americans, but women worldwide.


Raneem Alkhatib is a Spring 2017 intern at the Arab American Institute.