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Diwali brings light and optimism to community, country

Column by Rep. Frank Pallone.

By Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr.

As Diwali festivities are underway, more than a billion Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world and more than two million Indian Americans around the country will be celebrating. Many of those taking part in the celebrations will be from the Congressional district I represent, including large Indian American communities within Edison, Old Bridge and Woodbridge in New Jersey.

I consider myself fortunate to have been invited to take part in many of these celebrations throughout my district. Diwali is a vibrant holiday that I find remarkable each time I participate in its traditions, and reminds me of my many travels to India. The light-filled streets that encompass you, artful rangolis being made, the sharing of mithas or sweets amongst strangers and relatives alike, the colorful saris and attire that adorn both women and men. I recently attended Diwali celebrations in Edison and Marlboro that reminded me of the strong bonds and relationships within the community that allows it to come together and share in its cherished traditions.

Diwali is also a joyous time, which signifies the power of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. This is symbolized by the lighting of the diya, and the many lights and colors shining bright in community members’ homes, temples and businesses in areas such as Oak Tree Road in Iselin.

In many ways, Diwali has come at a crucial period in our nation’s history, as we decide our next President of the United States. At many points throughout the election period, there has been divisive rhetoric that has been anti-immigrant and frankly prejudiced and very depressing. The Diwali celebrations and the symbolism they represent display the true qualities of our nation as a whole.

Shared American ideals that have been built on immigrant values, hard work and coming together as a community. Just as the community opens its doors and lights diyas as a beacon of welcoming, our nation too has served in this sentiment. I hope that Diwali will usher in prosperity and good fortune upon our country, illuminating a bright light in the path of our nation’s future ahead.

As a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans and as a representative of one of the largest Indian American constituencies in the United States, I have called for a stronger U.S.-India partnership and to ensure the values and priorities of the Indian American community are represented in Congress. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2016 visit to the United States and historic speech to a Joint Session of Congress reinforced my confidence in a strong U.S.-India relationship. That is why earlier this year I introduced legislation in support of India’s bid to have a permanent seat on the United Nation’s Security Council. I look forward to both nations’ continued work together to address some of our most pressing global challenges.

To those celebrating this joyous occasion in my district and around the world, I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak.

United States Representative Frank Pallone represents New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans.