2020 Middle Eastern and North African American National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders

Sept. 8, 2020

There is no question that the American people are eager for new leaders who reflect the diversity of our country and bring forward fresh ideas on strengthening America’s role in the world. Unfortunately, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Americans have not been a visible part of the foreign policy and national security workforce. This inaugural list aims to address this by highlighting the contributions of a rising generation of policy leaders within this community.

The MENA American community is brimming with talented leaders with expertise in diplomacy, national security, and international development, and politics. In recent decades, their contributions and talents have been recognized through the appointment of Lebanese-American Ed Gabriel as U.S. Ambassador to Morocco in 1997 and Theodore Kattouf as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates in 1999; the contributions of Iranian-American Vali Nasr as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan; the appointments of Hady Amr as the Deputy Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and Juliette Kayyem as the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security; and the elections of Syrian-American Justin Amash in 2010 and of Rashida Tlaib in 2018 as the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. These trail blazers paved the way for MENA American leaders who are eager to contribute to strengthening U.S. national security and foreign policy.

The Diversity in National Security Network and New America are thrilled to recognize the contributions of 30 MENA American next generation leaders in U.S. national security and foreign policy. We are pleased to honor these rising leaders and support them as they strive to shape U.S. policy across a spectrum of issues. This list includes experts currently working in government, academia, think tanks, nonprofits, the media, and the private sector. Their work focuses on a wide range of critical policy issues ranging from defense, to human rights, to public health, to technological innovation, to public diplomacy. They were selected based on their demonstrated leadership potential, current work in national security or foreign policy, career excellence, contributions to their areas of expertise, and commitment to serving their communities.

Although this group’s interests and contributions are highly diverse, several of the #NextGenNatSec leaders profiled grew up in the shadow of the September 11 attacks and – like countless other younger Americans – developed an interest in U.S. national security and foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. This subset of the group, many of whom are first generation Americans, is notable in that they have personal ties to the region and possess unique perspectives that have been integral in re-shaping the discourse around the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa.

The List.

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