Champions of Change


Mariela Shaker and Marwan Sweedan, refugees from Syria and Iraq, respectively, were recognized by the White House yesterday as “Champions of Change.” The White House describes these individuals as “ordinary Americans who are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”Continue reading.


Hoda Kotb

Kotb_IHM_resize.pngBorn to Egyptian parents, Kotb is a hero to many Americans, and not just because of the charming smile that greets us each morning. Hoda’s fearless battle with – and victory over – breast cancer has captivated people across the country. Hoda Kotb was born in a small Oklahoman town, though she considers herself a true West Virginian, having spent most of her childhood in Morgantown. But Hoda has never forgotten her Egyptian roots, and has nothing but love for Arab culture. Having spent a good portion of her working life in Egypt, she once labeled the society as “very gentle.”Continue reading



Senator George J. Mitchell

Senator_Mitchell_Photo.jpgGrowing up in the small town of Waterville, Maine, Senator George J. Mitchell inherited the rich cultural values and the histories of his two immigrant parents. His mother was born Mintaha Saad in a small village in the mountains of Lebanon. In 1920, at the age of 18, she came to America and took a job working the night shift at a textile factory, working long hours to support herself and her family. His father was the son of Irish immigrants, but was orphaned before being adopted by John and Mary Mitchell, who were both born in Lebanon and had also moved to the United States to start a better life. Continue reading


Dr. Michael DeBakey


Michel E. Dabaghi was born in Louisiana in September 1908. He was the oldest of five children and was raised by his Lebanese parents Shaker and Raheeja Debaghi. Later going by Michael DeBakey, he would become one of the most prominent medical minds of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the greatest surgeon who ever lived, Dr. DeBakey credited much of his surgical success to his Lebanese mother, who taught him to sew and knit. Continue reading.



Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek Pinault, born to a Lebanese father and Mexican mother, has long cherished the rich culture of her father and grandfather. Growing up in southern Mexico, Salma took great pride in being known in her neighborhood as part of the Arab diaspora. Salma’s connection to her Lebanese heritage was nurtured by her grandfather’s devotion to the works of Khalil Gibran. Hayek has frequently shared that Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet enjoyed a perpetual and treasured presence on her grandfather’s bedside table. Continue reading.



Charles "Chuck" Abdelnour

A dedicated servant to public life, Charles “Chuck” Abdelnour was born on February 12, 1948 in the desert town of Brawley, California. The son of Lebanese Immigrants, his father Gabriel Abdelnour fled Lebanon in 1917 to escape religious persecution. Grateful for his newfound sovereignty, Gabriel reminded his children to hold dear the beauty of democracy and freedom.As City Clerk of the seventh largest city in the U.S., Abdelnour was recognized for his skill and innovation. In a historic advent, he redefined the U.S. voting system, rewrote our election law, and earned international fame by pioneering the “all-mail” ballotContinue reading.



Ralph Johns

While largely an unsung hero, Arab American Ralph Johns was one of the sparks that ignited the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Born in the early 1920s to Syrian immigrants, Johns was a chief source of motivation for students who led the 1960 Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins at a Woolworth five-and-dime. Attracting national attention, the events in Greensboro are often considered to be the launching platform for the Civil Rights Movement that followed. Continue reading.




Robert Khayat  

Robert Khayat has always been surrounded by issues of race. As Chancellor of  Ole Miss, he confronted the spectres of race head-on, preaching the values of respect and equality that his Lebanese father had taught him. Born in 1938 in Mississippi, Khayat was raised by his mother and Lebanese immigrant father. He witnessed firsthand the harshness of racial prejudices and segregation that persisted in southern culture. Despite that prejudice, Robert’s father instilled in his six children a rich sense of their Lebanese heritage, and the importance of showing deep respect for all people, no matter race, religion, or class. Continue reading.


Marlo Thomas  

Marlo Thomas is an -award-winning actress, author, and activist best known for her role in “That Girl.” Breaking ground not only in show business, Thomas leveraged her fame to shed light on gender inequality, and continues to empower women worldwide. Thomas was born on November 21, 1937 in Detroit, Michigan to the famous comedian Danny Thomas, a son of Lebanese immigrants, and Rose Marie Cassaniti, a daughter of Sicilian immigrants. Continue reading.