The Committee for Ethnic Affairs advises the Montgomery County, MD County Executive and County Council on public policy that relates to ethnic affairs; promotes maximum involvement of all ethnic groups in the County in government, business and community affairs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting It Right: Bridging the Cultural Divide through Knowledge and Engagement

On Wednesday, April 6, Senator Jim Rosapepe and Dr. James Zogby spoke at Montgomery College’s Arab American Heritage Month opening “kickoff” event about “Getting It Right:  Bridging the Cultural Divide through Knowledge and Engagement.” 
Sen. Rosapepe, emphasized embracing our cultural differences…and noted Montgomery College’s success in doing this.  Sen. Rosapepe said cultural differences should not serve as dividers amongst our citizens, but as a way we can learn about each others’ rich cultural heritage and a way we can come together under one rich mosaic.  In doing this, we can successfully bridge the differences between each of us.  Once again he pointed to Montgomery College successfully doing this, i.e., bridging cultural differences and bringing people together.  Sen. Rosapepe noted that there was a $250 million dollar fund for elementary schools to tap into to teach foreign languages, such as Arabic.  However, thus far, NO MPCS School has asked for these funds.  The deadline for doing so is May 1st.
Dr. Zogby, Founder and President of the Arab American Institute (AAI), Senior Advisor for the Polling Firm Zogby International, and Author of “Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters(October 2010), outlined how all people are the same…they have the same aspirations and dreams for their children; they have the same desires for good health care and self governance.  Unfortunately, Dr. Zogby said our misperceptions about others (and specifically to this discussion, Middle Easterners) are developed because of media’s overuse of stereotypical representations, which reinforce our misperceptions of people from that region.  Moreover, we fail to recognize the differences between countries in the region, which is largely shaped by each countries unique historical events.  And it is these misperceptions that impact our public and foreign policy.  And it is such wrongly influenced policies that lead to a divergence between how the United States would like to be perceived and how the region perceives the U.S.  Thus, American’s misperceptions bred by Western media, feeds misconceived U.S. policies, and this, in turn, leads to Middle Eastern misperceptions of U.S. intentions…it is a vicious cycle of wrong-mindedness that draws wrong conclusions on both sides of the world.  
At the close of the well attended event was a book signing of Dr. Zogby’s new book “Arab Voices”.   In attendance were a number of the Committee for Ethnic Affairs current and former members, elected officials and representatives, and members from the community at-large.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and the discussion. (see photo- photo credit to Arwa Elbeshbishi).
If you want to get a sense of what leading authors and commentators are already saying about Dr. Zogby 's book, follow the link:
 For more information about the event and about Montgomery College’s Arab American Heritage Month Calendar of upcoming Events in April 2011, follow the link: , or contact Program Coordinator, Enas Elhanafi at 240-567-1759 or  
Post contributed by Jeff Lynch, Member At-Large, Committee for Ethnic Affairs

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