Arab Americans in Service to Our Country

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Arab American Nat’l Museum’s Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to Our Country opens Jan. 24 at UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures

SAN ANTONIO – Arab Americans have been an integral part of the United States of America since its inception, contributing to our society in myriad ways, including representing and defending American ideals through public service. Long the target of negative stereotypes, Arab Americans even found themselves dubbed "guilty by association" following the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
A new exhibition created by the Arab American National Museum (AANM) – Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to Our Country – tells true stories of heroism and self-sacrifice that reaffirm the important role Arab Americans have played in our country throughout its history. The exhibition comes to San Antonio, Jan. 24 through June 14, 2015 at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd.
Patriots & Peacemakers highlights three specific areas of service: the U.S. Armed Forces, the Peace Corps (marking its 50th anniversary this year) and diplomatic service. Personal narratives highlight Arab American men and women of different national and religious backgrounds. The exhibition also encourages visitors to consider how commitment to public service impacts their daily lives.
"Whether serving in the military, joining the Peace Corps or speaking out as conscientious objectors, Arab Americans are committed to the core values of democracy and freedom that are dear to us all," says AANM Director Dr. Anan Ameri. "While this exhibit focuses on Arab American public service in only three areas, Arab Americans have long been present in every facet of public life."
"We take a great deal of pride in introducing Texan Cultures to our community," said Angelica Docog, executive for the Institute of Texan Cultures. "While Lebanese and Syrian Texans have been part of our state since the 1800s, the world has changed so much since the institute opened. As an institution, it’s a pleasure to host Patriots & Peacemakers and to lead our community in discussing the contributions Arab Americans have made to our state and nation."
Produced by the AANM Curatorial Department with guest curator Joan Mandell, Patriots & Peacemakers showcases the stories of 170 individuals from 39 states and Washington, D.C. More than 100 Arab Americans in the military, and about 35 each in Peace Corps and the diplomatic corps, shared their service experiences for the exhibition.
The service stories begin with the Revolutionary War and touch upon nearly every conflict up to the present day. The earliest diplomats profiled date from the late 1940s/early 1950s. The Peace Corps was founded in 1961; Patriots & Peacemakers includes a profile from the 1962 class up through volunteers who are currently serving and one who has been accepted and is set to head out in 2012.
"Together with AANM staff and volunteers, books and archival lists were scoured for Arab surnames, consulted with historians and national organizations," says Mandell. "Over the last two years, I visited and interviewed hundreds of Arab Americans across the country, and phoned diplomats and active-duty military around the world."
"Humble people were sometimes reticent to talk, while others were elated to finally be heard. I learned to work with combat veterans to safely push through the fear and shame that has kept their heartfelt stories secret, even for decades," Mandell says.
Guest curator Joan Mandell is a Detroit-based journalist, documentary filmmaker and educator. Among her documentary titles are Tales from Arab Detroit; Voices in Exile: Immigrants and the First Amendment; Gaza Ghetto: Portrait of a Palestinian Family; I, Too, Sing America; One Million Postcards; and Arab American Road Movie, the short film that is part of the AANM’s "Living in America" permanent exhibit. Her 9-11 Moments can be viewed HERE.
Mandell has taught documentary film production/film studies and ESL at University of California at Irvine, Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, Birzeit University in Palestine and most recently, aboard ship with the University of Virginia’s Semester-at-Sea program. She was a Fulbright scholar, a Felton Scholar in Media Literacy and an affiliated fellow at UCLA's von Grunebaum Center for Near East Studies.
The creation of Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to Our Country was made possible in part by The Ford Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and Chevron.
The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures gives voice to the experiences of people from across the globe who call Texas home, providing insight into our past, present, and future. An agency of the Vice President for Community Services at The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Smithsonian Affiliate, the 182,000 square foot complex, featuring 45,000 square feet of exhibit space and five re-creation Texas Frontier period structures, is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus in downtown San Antonio. Resources for multiple audiences are available at
The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves and presents Arab American history, culture and contributions. It is a project of ACCESS, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization. Learn more at and




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