US lawmakers hail Hindu-American culture at Congressional Diwali event
Representational Image (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
HINDU-AMERICAN culture has enriched the United Stated and the world, American lawmakers said during the annual Diwali celebrations at the US Congress on Wednesday (27).
“We have come a long way as a community where someone can easily say today as I do, that I am a proud Hindu-American, that I am proud of celebrating Diwali, that the Hindu-American culture has enriched America and the world,” Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna said.
Several officials of the White House and US lawmakers observed Diwali with the Indian diaspora in Capitol Hill.
Nonprofit organisation Indiaspora, in association with a number of Indian-American organisations, have for the past several years been celebrating the festival of lights at the US Congress. The event is attended by a large number of legislators, members of the administration and eminent community leaders from across the US.
The event was restricted this year due to Covid-19 pandemic but was webcast live.
Khanna, a three-term Congressman from California, said his district in the Golden State has the largest Indian-American community in the country.
“With such a growing number of Indian-Americans serving in all facets of the government, it felt fitting that during Diwali, one of the most auspicious and celebrated occasions of the year, we recognise the service of these public servants in our community,” M R Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, said.
The event also included remarks from senior administration officials, including Neera Tanden, senior adviser to US president Joe Biden who was recently named the White House staff secretary and serves as the highest-ranking Indian-American woman in the administration after vice president Kamala Harris, and vice admiral Vivek Murthy, US surgeon general, who spoke about the inspiration behind Diwali.
“Diwali is about light overcoming darkness, and there has been a lot of darkness in the last year and a half. To be able to celebrate Diwali, to talk about the meaning, to talk about the light in oneself and the light in others in these tough times, means a lot and I’m grateful to be here,” Murthy told Asian News International.
“I think of Diwali as a time of sustenance … the food, the lights and a community event. To find sustenance in the things we grew up with which make us who we are today, and that is why the work of Indiaspora is important,” Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from the Democratic Party, who represents Washington’s seventh district, said.
“It’s time to run for office… we will be rooting for you and supportive of you. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it matters that you ran for the right reasons – to serve the community,” said Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois.
“As we close out 2021, I plan to introduce legislation that would further enshrine this day of light, Diwali, as a federal holiday,” said New York Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was instrumental in helping Indiaspora and community partners in their advocacy for a United States Postal Stamp commemorating Diwali which succeeded in 2016.
“We should also take a moment to acknowledge that it’s not just elected officials that make a difference in public service, it’s also the many staff members who work in the offices in congress and in city halls and in state legislatures and school boards across the country,” said Democratic Congressman from Texas Joaquin Castro.
In a video message, Texas Republican senator John Cornyn, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, said he was proud to see how ties between the US and India have grown stronger over the years.
California Congressman Dr Ami Bera, the longest-serving Indian-American in Congress, also addressed the gathering.