Indian American lawmakers and senior Biden administration officials join celebration on Capitol Hill
Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders, hosted a Diwali celebration where several Indian Americans who have been elected, appointed, and nominated to public office were honored for their service.
Also honored were Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill at the celebration Tuesday held with several community partners in the US Capitol Rayburn House Office Building, according to a media release.
“With such a growing number of Indian Americans serving in all facets of government, it felt fitting that during Diwali, one of the most auspicious and celebrated occasions of the year, we recognize the seva, or service, of these public servants in our community,” said MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora.
Read: 40 Indian Americans in 2021 Indiaspora Philanthropy Leaders List (August 12, 2021)
Several senior Administration officials, including Neera Tanden, Senior Adviser to President Joe Biden, who was recently named White House Staff Secretary, and serves as the highest ranking Indian American woman in the administration after Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke at the event.
Speaking about the inspiration behind Diwali, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, “The fundamental lesson of Diwali is to recognize and remember our light and the light within others, and to focus on that. That is our charge today, in a world that has been turned upside down by this pandemic as well as a growing pandemic of polarization.”
All four members of Congress of Indian heritage, including the longest serving Indian American in Congress Ami Bera, Vice Chair of the India Caucus in the House Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American woman elected to the House and Raja Krishnamoorthi all spoke about what Diwali meant to them, and their call to public service.
“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,” said Khanna pointing out that his district in California has the largest Indian American community in the nation.
“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,” said Jayapal.
“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 Krishnamoorthi.
Other Members of Congress also spoke about the significance of Diwali.
“As we close out 2021, I plan to introduce legislation that would further enshrine this day of light, Diwali, as a federal holiday,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was instrumental in helping Indiaspora and community partners in their advocacy for a US postal stamp commemorating Diwali which came to fruition in 2016.
“I am proud to see how ties between the US and India have strengthened over the years,” said Senator John Cornyn, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, in a video message to Indiaspora.
“We are honored to celebrate Diwali on Capitol Hill and share our traditions with the leaders who have dedicated themselves to serve the public,” said Sanjeev Joshipura, Executive Director of Indiaspora, who served as emcee for the evening.
“The Indian diaspora has had a profound impact in American society, and their diverse contributions continue to strengthen our nation,” he said.
Read: US politicos greet Indian American community on Diwali (November 17, 2020)
Other guests included James Clyburn, House Majority Whip, Steve Chabot, Co-Chair of House India Caucus, Judy Chu, Chair of Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and House members Al Green and Tim Ryan.
The program, which included a diya lighting ceremony, began with an interfaith prayer led by several community partners, which brought together different religions, including Hindu, Jain and Buddhist faiths.
Actress and singer Mary Millben, a Helen Hayes Award nominee and recording artist, performed “Om Jai Jagdish Hare,” inviting the audience to sing with her.
Several fellow community partners joined Indiaspora to celebrate Diwali: All American Diwali; Art of Living Foundation; Association of Indian Muslims of America; Dharma into Action; Global Indian Jewish Relations Institute; Hindu American Foundation; Indian American Impact Project; Federation of Jain Associations in North America; Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington and US-India Business Council.