Non-profit organization Indiaspora hosts Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill

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Neera Tanden, recently appointed Staff Secretary to President Joe Biden, gestures as she speaks at the interfaith Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill Oct. 26, 2021, hosted by Indiaspora and several other faith organizations. Photo: courtesy Indiaspora

Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders, hosted a Diwali celebration with several community partners in the U.S. Capitol Rayburn House Office Building to honor Indian-Americans who have been elected, appointed, and nominated to public office, as well as staffers on Capitol Hill, for their contributions to government service.

 

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the Oct. 26, 2021, interfaith Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill. Photo: Indiaspora

“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,” MR Rangaswami, founder of Indiaspora, is quoted saying in the press release.

 

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California, left, with M R Rangaswami, founder of non-profit organization Indiaspora, lighting the lamp Oct. 26, 2021, at interfaith Diwali celebrations on Capitol Hill. Photo: courtesy Indiaspora

The event included remarks from 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.

Other high officials and elected leaders present included U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, who spoke about the inspiration behind Diwali.

 

“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,” said Dr. Murthy.

 

Congressman Ami Bera, D-California, at the Oct. 26, 2021 interfaith Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill, hosted by Indiaspora and a number of other faith organizations. Photo: Indiaspora

All four members of Congress of Indian heritage, including the longest serving Indian American in Congress Rep. Ami Bera, D-California; Vice Chair of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California; Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, the first Indian American woman elected to the House of Representatives; and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, all spoke about what Diwali meant to them, and their call to public service.

 

Other Members of Congress also spoke about the significance of the holiday.

 

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, speaking at the Oct. 26, 2021, interfaith Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill. Photo: Indiaspora

“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, D-New York, who was instrumental in helping Indiaspora and community partners in their advocacy for a United States Postal Stamp commemorating Diwali which came to fruition in 2016.

 

The program included a diya lighting ceremony with the speakers and remarks from several elected and appointed leaders in the federal government. Apart from Tanden, Murthy, Maloney, and the four Indian-American lawmakers, other important attendees included U.S. Representatives James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, Majority Whip; Steve Chabot, D-Ohio, Co-Chair of House India Caucus; Judy Chu, D-California, chair of Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Al Green, D-Texas; and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.

 

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, at the Oct. 26, 2021, interfaith Diwali celebration held on Capitol Hill. Photo: 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. The Indian diaspora has had a profound impact in American society, and their diverse contributions continue to strengthen our nation,” said Sanjeev Joshipura, executive director of Indiaspora, who served as emcee for the evening.

 

This year’s program 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.

 

Some of the other organizations who joined to organize the event included 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, JAINA, Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington, and the US-India Business Council.

 

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