President Donald Trump, while officiating at this second Diwali at the White House, said the United States and India formed a bulwark against conflicts and stood for peace, that Prime Minister Modi was a “best” friend, and that America was “blessed” to have so many Indian-Americans calling this nation their home.
In an almost 8-minute speech before lighting the traditional lamp in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trump also announced the nomination of Indian-American Neomi Rao, to fill the vacant seat on the DC Circuit, vacated by now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“India is the world’s largest democracy and the relationship between our two countries connect as a bulwark for freedom, prosperity, and peace. As we light the Diya in the White House we are joined by in a fellowship with all of those who light lamps in their own home, cities and places of worship,” Trump said, adding, “America is a land of faith and we are truly fortunate to have these wonderful traditions woven into the tapestry of our national life. And that is true.”
After lighting the Diya, Trump called on several Indian-American officials in his administration to speak, including Administrator of Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, Neomi Rao, and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Navtej Singh Sarna, made brief remarks at the request of the President.
“I’m honored to host this beautiful ceremony at the White House. Very, very special people. We’re gathered today to celebrate a very special holiday observed by Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains throughout the United States and around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family and friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New year: very special new year,” Trump said.
“Our nation is blessed to be home to millions of hardworking citizens of Indian and South East Asian heritage to enrich our country in countless ways. Together we are one proud American family,” he said, turning to the audience and asking, “Do we agree with that? I think so. I think we do. Right? Better believe it.”
“I’m grateful to have numerous Americans of Indian and South East Asian heritage who fulfill critical roles across my administration and they’ve done an incredible job. Many of them are here today,” Trump said, naming several of them.
While introducing his daughter Ivanka Trump who went to India leading a delegation earlier this year, the President said, “Modi is my friend and now her friend and has great respect for India and the Indian people that I can say.”
To which his daughter replied, “Absolutely.”
“The United States has deep ties to the nation of India and I am grateful for my friendship with Prime Minister Modi. We’re trying very hard to make better trade deals with India. But, they’re very good traders. They’re very good negotiators. You would say right. The best. So we’re working. And it’s moving along,” said Trump.
“On behalf of the American people, I wish everyone celebrating here, well all over our country, our land, great United States and around the world, a happy and joyful Diwali,” the President said, following with lighting the lamp.
Ambassador Sarna thanked the President for honoring India and the Indian community in the U.S. who feel “very welcome” and have integrated with American society. “I think, we are looking at one of the best times we ever had in India US relationship,” Sarna said.
“I think, that’s true. Very close, than ever before,” the President emphasized.