“I learned generosity like I learned a lot of other significant life skills—from my parents and from the Ramallah community I grew up in. My Palestinian heritage was my greatest teacher. And I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. So, I did what I could to give back to my Palestinian and Arab American community by donating my time and money to Arab American organizations and charities. I quickly learned that the most effective way to advance the position of Arab Americans in the United States was for me, and others from our own community, to invest in our cause. If you are passionate about a cause, the investment of both your time and money are crucial for resolution.”
The son of Palestinian immigrants from Ramallah, Mr. Salem grew up in a large Palestinian community that had settled in the United States. As such, Mr. Salem grew to be an individual whose strong sense of identity as a Palestinian led him to become a celebrated lawyer and leader in philanthropic causes, always striving to advance the position of Arab Americans in the US.
Mr. Salem has led a long career working in government and the private sector, playing key roles in several presidential administrations. Having established himself as a highly regarded legal expert on labor and Middle East issues, Mr. Salem is currently a strategic advisor to DLA Piper.
As a first-generation Palestinian American growing up in a time period when Arab Americans faced discrimination, Mr. Salem felt motivated to work for a more inclusive society that integrated the full participation of Arab Americans. He worked tirelessly to invest in—and further—the position of Arabs, both in the US and abroad. In 1985, Mr. Salem co-founded the Arab American Institute and currently serves as its chairman. Passionate about giving back to Palestine, he was also the first president of United Palestinian Appeal, Inc., where he supported the establishment of parks in Palestine and of a craniofacial surgical unit in Ramallah Hospital. He is former president of the National Association of Arab Americans and has served on the board of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. In addition to donating his time, Mr. Salem established a family foundation in 2007, supporting a variety of causes, including ones specific to the Arab American community. The recipients of his support have included the Arab American Institute, Georgetown Center for Arab Studies, the National Defense Establishment, United Palestinian Appeal, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the Middle East Investment Initiative and the Middle East Institute.
As a man of faith, Mr. Salem credits his inspiration to give back to not only his Palestinian background and religion, but also from the example of his parents, and hopes to pass on this spirit of giving to his children. In 1992, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented annually to Americans of diverse origins for outstanding contributions to their own ethnic groups and to American society. A life evidenced by what one can do with passion and direction, Mr. Salem’s example of philanthropy and ceaseless advocacy on behalf of Arab Americans is a testament to how Arab Americans can become leaders in their own communities.