Posted by Arab American Institute on February 08, 2019 in Blog

The Arab American Institute mourns the loss of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), a giant in American electoral politics and “the Dean” of the House of Representatives. Rep. Dingell spent nearly 60 years in public service in Washington, serving over the course of eleven different presidential administrations. While much evolved in those years, his reputation as a hardworking defender of his constituents and of American values never did.

A tireless advocate for his constituents, he was unwavering on key issues, which earned him much admiration from Arab Americans. Congressman Dingell supported a sovereign Palestinian state and a strong U.S.-Lebanese bilateral relationship, particularly his leading of efforts to lift the decade-old ban on travel to Lebanon that existed during much of the 1990s. As the Arab American community in southeast Michigan grew in size, they found a natural ally in a congressman who wanted to support his constituents. In the face of anti-Arab bigotry targeting the Dearborn community over the years, Rep. Dingell was relentless in defending our rights—even from colleagues when it was necessary.

The legacy of Rep. Dingell’s positions is particularly striking in light of the current issues facing our country, including his significant support for major reforms to the electoral process, immigration, and healthcare. Every year, he introduced a single-payer healthcare bill at the start of each legislative session which, it can be argued, helped pave the way for President Obama to move forward with his signature healthcare act. Additionally, he provided constant leadership within the House on issues of discrimination, supporting efforts to protect Arab Americans under hate crime legislation. In 2006, Congressman Dingell was presented with a Special Recognition Award at the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards by the Arab American Institute Foundation for his years of service to our community and to the country.

Shortly after his passing, Executive Director Maya Berry said,

“With John Dingell's passing, our country has lost a national treasure, my community a fierce advocate, and I a hero/mentor. There was nothing like being Mr. Dingell's constituent, or [being] in a meeting with him when he was going after wrong. He will be missed.”

Congressman Dingell was an incredible friend to our community, and an even better friend to our country and to good governance. We join his constituents and the nation in celebrating his life and mourning his loss.