Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State recognized April as National Arab American Heritage Month. As such, it is a time for us to reflect on the important contributions of Arab Americans and take note of the importance of diversity and inclusion in our recruitment efforts.
The United States is home to more than 3.5 million Arab Americans representing a diverse array of backgrounds, cultures and traditions. Like their fellow citizens, Americans of Arab heritage are very much a part of the fabric of this nation, and Arab Americans have contributed in every field and profession. Many of them serve at the State Department and throughout the interagency, and their careers are as diverse as their backgrounds.
For a long time, we saw Arab Americans put in a box – working on Middle East issues, counter terrorism, etc. But those days are gone. Today, Arab Americans work across the full spectrum of the U.S. Government, from legislative issues to human rights, European affairs to homeland security. As we look to increase diversity and include a wider-range of voices in the federal government and at the Department of State, we are ready to welcome Arab Americans in any area of interest or field.
As we work to make our recruitment practices more equitable, we hope that more Arab Americans will consider a career at the State Department – whether it be civil service or foreign service. My speaking events before Arab American audiences, such as my recent discussion with students in Michigan, are steps towards that goal. More diversity at the table, means a larger pool of ideas, a more thorough decision-making process, and a stronger and safer United States. Supporting diversity and inclusion efforts is not only the “right” thing to do, but it has also been proven to create stronger and more effective organizations.
At the Department, we also have a strong community of employee affinity groups, including Arab Americans In Foreign Affairs Agencies (AAIFAA). Founded in 2014, AAIFAA’s membership includes individuals from across the foreign affairs community of the U.S. Federal Government. AAIFAA’s distribution list currently totals more than 400 members.
Employee Affinity Groups are an important part of Department of State, and have been doing the bulk of the work on diversity and inclusion. However, there is a lot more to do. Recently, the Secretary of State welcomed the State Department’s first Diversity and Inclusion Officer who will report directly to Secretary Blinken and deliver tangible results on retention, recruitment, and other efforts to ensure our State Department looks like America.
Arab Americans are an important part of these efforts, and look forward to having more Arab Americans at the table and having their voices and perspectives heard. So, on this Arab American Heritage month, I want to express my well wishes and gratitude for all that you do to make our country stronger and better.
About the Author: Joey Hood is the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Mr. Hood has spent most of his career working in the Middle East, and particularly on the Arabian Peninsula. He has served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq and in Kuwait, as well as Consul General and Principal Officer in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.