Blog Posts Related to the Arab American Community

  • Engaging Afghan-American Community Leaders

    Afghan-American community leaders participate in an interactive policy briefing

    Afghan-American community leaders participate in a briefing with Administration officials on Friday, August 2, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by the White House Office of Public Engagement)

    On Friday, August 2nd, the Office of Public Engagement hosted a group of Afghan-American community leaders for a roundtable discussion.  This is part of an ongoing effort to engage the Afghan-American community and spark an important conversation on how community leaders are working in various ways to support others across the United States as well as their role in shaping the future of Afghanistan.

    Community leaders ranged from founders of NGOs, academics, entrepreneurs to youth leaders and other active members of the community.  They hailed from cities and towns across the country including major Afghan-American enclaves in California, New York, and Virginia. The day-long roundtable connected them with Administration officials from the State Department, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, White House National Security Staff and Domestic Policy Council, and our  office.  It provided an opportunity to discuss the role of the U.S. in Afghanistan, the current debate on immigration, youth issues, the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, and other important topics. 

    Our time together provided a platform for these leaders to address some of the most critical issues facing the community locally and abroad. As the meeting came to a close, community leaders departed with a deep interest to continue the dialogue with the federal government and create new opportunities for other Afghan-Americans to be engaged while also celebrating their heritage and preserving their rich culture. 

    Paul Monteiro is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Middle East Peace Negotiators Come To Washington

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to discuss the formal resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in the Oval Office, July 30, 2013. To the President's left are, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Shtayyeh. To the Vice President's right are Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molho. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    At the invitation of Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators traveled to Washington this week to formally resume direct final status negotiations. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho represented the Israelis, and Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh represented the Palestinians.

    As the negotiations got underway on Monday, President Obama offered his support, noting:

    “The most difficult work of these negotiations is ahead, and I am hopeful that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with sustained focus and determination. The United States stands ready to support them throughout these negotiations, with the goal of achieving two states, living side by side in peace and security.”

    On Tuesday morning, President Obama and Vice President Biden met with the negotiators at the White House.  The President conveyed his appreciation to both sides for the leadership and courage they have shown in coming to the table, and to directly express his personal support for final status negotiations towards the goal of achieving two states living side by side in peace and security. 

    This resumption of talks began in Washington on Monday night with an Iftar dinner hosted for the negotiators by Secretary Kerry at the U.S. Department of State, and also attended by the newly appointed U.S. Special Envoy  for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, Ambassador Martin Indyk.  

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts an Iftar

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts an Iftar for Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC, on July 29, 2013 (Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Department of State)

    Negotiations continued on Tuesday and concluded with a press conference at which Secretary Kerry emphasized that the goal of the negotiations is to reach a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months. He also announced that the parties will meet again within the next two weeks either in Israel or the Palestinian Territories.

    “I think everyone involved here believes that we cannot pass along to another generation the responsibility of ending a conflict that is in our power to resolve in our time,” said Secretary Kerry in his remarks on Tuesday. “So while I understand the skepticism, I don’t share it and I don’t think we have time for it. . . .  A viable two-state solution is the only way this conflict can end, and there is not much time to achieve it, and there is no other alternative.”

    In his remarks, Kerry reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security:  

    “Our commitment to Israel’s security is why President Obama’s Administration has done more than any before it to strengthen our unshakeable bond and why General John Allen is on the ground working to ensure Israel’s security needs will be met. . . .”

    He also underscored the benefits of peace, stating:  “We can also envision a day when Israelis actually can truly live in peace – not just the absence of conflict, but a full and a lasting peace with Arab and Muslim nations, an end once and for all to the pernicious attacks on Israel’s legitimacy. . . .  And we cannot forget that the security of Israel will also benefit Palestinians next door.”

    In her remarks, Justice Minister Livni thanked President Obama for his dedication to the peace process, recalling his historic trip to Israel in March, which served to jump-start the process that led to this week’s meetings:

    “I also want to thank President Obama for his personal commitment to peace and to Israel’s security.  The powerful impression left by the President’s last visit to Israel still remains in the hearts of the Israeli people,” said Minister Livni.

    In his remarks, Chief Negotiator Erekat expressed his appreciation to the President and Secretary Kerry:

    “I would like to extend our deepest appreciation to President Barack Obama and to you, Secretary Kerry, for your relentless efforts and unwavering commitment to achieve a just, comprehensive, lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

    Read and watch more of Tuesday’s remarks here.

    Matt Nosanchuk is an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Watch President Obama Discuss the NSA and Syria Tonight on Charlie Rose

    President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Charlie Rose (June 16, 2013)

    President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Charlie Rose in the White House Library, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Before leaving for this week's G-8 summit in the United Kingdom, President Obama sat down with Charlie Rose in the White House Library for a 45-minute interview on topics ranging from Syria to the National Security Agency.

    That discussion will air tonight at 11:00 PM on PBS stations across the country. For more specifics, check your local listings.

    Update: Watch a segment of that interview here

  • President Obama Announces Additional Humanitarian Aid for the Syrian People

    Americans and people all over the world have been moved by the images of courageous Syrians standing up to a brutal regime, even as they suffer the consequences of the violence waged against them by the Assad government. Right now, humanitarian conditions in Syria are deteriorating in the face of a massive, man-made humanitarian emergency. People have been forced from their homes; schools, clinics and bakeries continue to be targeted; and food prices are on the rise as winter takes hold.

    The numbers are staggering. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.5 million people are displaced inside of Syria, and over 678,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Their stories touch us all, and the American people will continue to stand with them. That is why President Obama announced today that he has approved a new round of humanitarian assistance, an additional $155 million to provide for the urgent and pressing needs of civilians in Syria and refugees forced to flee the violence of the Assad regime. This brings America’s contribution to date to $365 million, making the United States the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people. 

    Read the President's message in Arabic (pdf). You can also watch the video with Arabic subtitles.

    Our assistance is being delivered all across Syria and is providing food, clean water, medicines and medical treatment for hundreds of thousands of people. It will expand the delivery of vaccines for children and clothing and winter supplies for millions of people facing both the regime’s brutality and the hardships of winter. It will supply flour to bakeries in Aleppo to provide daily bread, and allow families to feed their children; it will finance field hospitals to care for those who are wounded; and it will provide care and services for the growing number of victims of sexual violence. Our assistance also supports a growing number of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. 

  • President Obama Hosts Fourth Annual Iftar Dinner at the White House

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Iftar Dinner, Aug. 10, 2012

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Iftar Dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 10, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Last night, President Obama hosted his fourth Iftar dinner as President in the State Dining Room of the White House. The Iftar is the meal that breaks the day of fasting during Ramadan, when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.

    During his remarks at the dinner, the President reflected on the importance of religious freedom and the important role Muslims have played throughout our country’s history.

    Of all the freedoms we cherish as Americans, of all the rights that we hold sacred, foremost among them is freedom of religion, the right to worship as we choose.  It’s enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution -- the law of the land, always and forever.  It beats in our heart -- in the soul of the people who know that our liberty and our equality is endowed by our Creator.  And it runs through the history of this house, a place where Americans of many faiths can come together and celebrate their holiest of days -- and that includes Ramadan.

    As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia -- perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.  And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress -- the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson.  And that's a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam -- like so many faiths -- is part of our national story.

    Watch the President's remarks at the Iftar Dinner here.

  • Roundtable with MPAC’s 2012 Young Leaders Summit

    Valerie Jarrett with MPAC Young Leaders

    Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett meets with students attending the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Young Leaders Summit, July 12, 2012. (Photo by the Office of Public Engagement)

    Yesterday, we had the opportunity to speak with 27 outstanding college and graduate students who were attending the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Young Leaders Summit. Currently in its 5th year, the summit is a weeklong civic training program that exposes the students to careers in public service and encourages increased engagement in their respective communities. As we sat around the table in the Roosevelt Room it proved to be an ideal setting for them to engage directly with senior Administration officials and share their own unique perspectives. 

    The students, whose studies range from psychology and the environment to finance and women’s studies, asked insightful questions around a variety of policy issues. The conversation touched on domestic and foreign policy.  Ronnie Cho, an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement and liaison to Young Americans, discussed the President’s work to address issues of concern to the next generation of Americans including college affordability and clean energy policy. Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett welcomed the students, encouraging them to share their stories, insights, and perspectives here in DC and also as they returned home. 

  • Engaging Arab and Muslim Small Business Owners

    Muslim-American and Arab-American Roundtable on the Economy 1

    Roundtable attendees listen as a recent graduate of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland speaks about the challenges of starting a new business, June 6, 2012.

    Yesterday, we had a chance to hear directly from successful business leaders from the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities at a White House Roundtable on the Economy. We were hosted at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy for this first in a series of business roundtables around the country to gather advice on how to create an economy built to last by supporting small businesses.

    The roundtable brought together entrepreneurs from a wide range of professions, ranging from IT specialists, physicians, and pharmacists to hoteliers and realtors—all of whom have created successful small businesses that are driving our economy. The conversation provided an ideal opportunity for Michael Strautmanis, a senior advisor to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and Kassie Lewis from the State of Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development to sit down and gather tangible feedback about what the federal government can do to address the challenges often faced by small business owners. For more than an hour we engaged in a frank and practical discussion about the things that small business leaders feel are important, including access to capital, bonding, the need for an educated, skill-based workforce, and the support needed to export their goods to international markets.

  • Exploring Communities of Muslim Women throughout History

    The more globalized and change-intensive the times, the more important it is to expand our knowledge of the world, near and far, past and present. Accordingly, the National Endowment for the Humanities has developed a Bridging Cultures initiative to highlight specific histories and cultural traditions of various communities around the world.

    In this context, the NEH and White House Office of Public Engagement gathered together an audience on May 30th to hear from two scholars who have used NEH funding to explore places and moments in time when communities of Muslim women began to expand their legal rights. The presenters were: