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Helen Thomas, the venerable and respected White House journalist has a vastly different perspective than many of her colleagues. That's because she is an Arab-American, someone who grew up in a predominantly Arab American community, and has tirelessly fought for decades in search of truth, justice and transparency in the executive branch of the United States. Thomas has also been an advocate of more Arab-Americans getting into the field of journalism. She has only one piece of advice when it comes to Arab journalists who want to make it in the business: "Get into the game!" Her storied career starts on August 4th, 1920, when she was born to Lebanese immigrants from Tripoli, Lebanon. She was reared in Michigan, which is known for its large Arab-American population, and graduated from Wayne University in the area. She started off her journalism career as a copy girl for a now-defunct paper, and worked her way up the totem pole to cub reporter. In 1943, Thomas joined United Press International and reported on various issues which affected women on the radio wire service. Her foray into national politics began at UPI, where she started to cover the Department of Justice, the FBI, Capitol Hill, and the federal government. In 1960, she began covering the young and charismatic president-elect John F. Kennedy, and since then, has covered every president to this day. During her years covering Kennedy, she became the first woman reporter to ever close a presidential news conference with a traditional "Thank you, Mr. President." She was also the only female reporter to join Nixon on his famous and breakthrough trip to China, which helped bridge the gap between the two nations. In subsequent years, Thomas has made many trips back to China, covering international events and politics with fervor and imagination. Thomas' life is one of many firsts. She was the first woman officer and president of both the National Press Club and White House Correspondents Association. She was also the first female member of the Gridiron Club, and the first woman to be elected President of the club in 1993. Thomas has also won numerous accolades for her tireless work, including honorary doctorate degrees, "woman of the year" awards and was even named one of the twenty-five most influential women in America by the World Almanac. While her storied career has seen numerous presidents, administrations, wars and conflicts, Thomas is a firm believer that more Arab-American should join her in the field of journalism—if only to provide a different experience and voice to mainstream media. Thomas has said that while she enjoys seeing other Arab Americans winning journalism prizes and accolades, what she would really like to see are simply more articles written by Arab reporters.
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