I cried. Like a little girl. It was like the moon landing for us — finally, a president is directly speaking out to me and my people — a president celebrates Diwali in The White House!
This weekend I made the trek back to The Bay Area where I grew up, to celebrate the Hindu New Year, Diwali. Diwali is a celebration of lights, and marks the triumph of good over evil, and is celebrated with great fanfare by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists, around the world.
All through the weekend I received phone calls and texts from inspired friends and families wishing me Diwali wishes, and gushing over the news that Obama was the first president ever to celebrate Diwali in The White House. (It started in the Bush era, in 2003, but President Bush never personally took part in the celebration, nor was it celebrated within the main White House walls.) The President lead a small ceremony which included an invocation by a Hindu priest, and a ceremonial lighting of the Diya (lamp, symbolizing the brightness of truth and knowledge over darkness and ignorance), and had this to say:
”This coming Saturday, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, here in America and around the world, will celebrate this holiday by lighting Diyas, or lamps, which symbolize the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. And while this is a time of rejoicing, it’s also a time for reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment to reach out to those in need.”
He later went on to address the people of the fore mentioned faiths, in a special video message, and continued to wish everyone a ‘Sal Mubaraq’ which is Hindi for Happy New Year.
This, of course, is a part of the trend which President Obama has started, by being involved personally with holidays and festivals that are shared amongst the many faiths and cultures that makes up the great diversity in America; this includes his recent messages and galas for both the people of the Jewish faiths for Rosh Hashanah, and of the Muslim faith during Ramadan and Eid.
In addition, this great ceremony culminated with the joyous event of the President re-establishing the President’s advisory committee and White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (which was created under Clinton, but later died under Bush.)
In the end, I will never forget the faces of my family as we stood around the computer screen, and watched The President speak to us… to acknowledge us, and to let the world know that we too are just as American as any! I know I will tell my children, and hopefully children’s children, of the day when Diwali was celebrated in all of America. Thanks again Mister President, and Happy Diwali.