President calls Indian-Americans “soul”of the nation, as White House celebrates Diwali

President Joe Biden addressing the crowd at the White House Diwali celebrations Oct. 24, 2022. Photo: Twitter @WHIAANHPI

President Joe Biden held Diwali celebrations at the White House October 24, 2022, greeting a host of Indian-American and other supporters to the event.

It was a standing-room-only crowd cheering and holding up their cell phones to take photos as Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden entered the East Room of the White House the evening of the Festival of Lights.

Hundreds of enthusiastic attendees pull out cell phones to take photos at the Oct. 24, 2022 White House Diwali celebrations as President Joe Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and First Lady Jill Biden enjoy the moment. Photo: Twitter @WHIAANHPI
Vice President Kamala Harris addressing the crowd in the East Room of the White House Oct. 24, 2022, for the White House Diwali celebration, as President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden look on. Photo Twitter @/WHIAANHPI

“Diwali is a holiday of hope. As with so many cultures, Diwali reminds us to see the light in our world, in each other, and in ourselves,” Vice President Harris said.

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“It feels so good to be here with so many friends,” First Lady Jill Biden said. The White House she said was a home for everyone, “and it belongs to all of you.”

“At the #WhiteHouseDiwali celebration. @POTUS just about to take stage, but already met rockstar friends like @KumarBarve of the Maryland House of Delegates & the inimitable @JeniferRajkumar along with the Air Force veteran Dr. Ravi Choudhary!” Tweeted Executive Director Suhag Shukla, right, of Hindu American Foundation. Photo: Twitter @SuhagAShukla

There was much screaming and pauses to accommodate the applause from the audience during all three speeches (c-span.org). Several heavy-hitters from the Indian-American community, including former Ambassadors, attended the event.

After opening remarks by the First Lady and Vice President Harris, the President took the podium. He invited a young boy and girl to join him on the stage, the children of Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California.

President Biden brought to stage the two children of Congressman Ro Khanna, D-California, when he spoke to the Diwali gathering at the White House Oct. 24, 2022. Photo: Facebook @Rep Ro Khanna

To those in the crowd, President Biden said, “Thank you for reflecting the soul of who we are as a nation.”

In his 12-minute speech, the President said, “We are honored to host you. This is the first Diwali reception of this scale in this house ever to be “”held.”

Atul Keshap and Sripriya Ranganathan during Diwali celebrations on October 24, 2022 in the East Room at the White House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times
Former US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma during Diwali celebrations on October 24, 2022 in the East Room at the White House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

He went on to say, “Thank you for making this celebration of Diwali such a joyous part of American culture, as we see it across the country opening homes and hearts,” and added, “Diwali is reminder that each of us has the power to dispel darkness and bring light to the world. It’s a choice, and we make that choice every day. It’s true in our lives, and in the life of this nation.”

Rishab Sharma after his performance at the Diwali celebrations on October 24, 2022 in the East Room at the White House in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Among the attendees at the White House Diwali reception were Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17); Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08); Mayor of Edison, N.J. Sam Joshi, members of the Indian American and South Asian American communities; members of the Biden-Harris Administration; other Members of Congress, and White House senior staff.

“I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1970’s where our family celebrated Diwali with a few other Indian American families. I could have never imagined that the light of Diwali would one day reach the White House,” Aruna Miller, candidate for Maryland Lieutenant Governor, told News India Times, calling the U.S. “a home to every culture.”

President of the US-India Business Council, Ambassador Atul Keshap told News India Times he was “really delighted to see the strength of the Indian American community that has been assembled here at the White House for a celebration of Diwali. This community has achieved so much in helping advance the prosperity and happiness, and well-being of people in America and in India. It’s a joy to be here.”

Former US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, called it a “great community event,” and thanked President Biden, Vice President Harris and the First Lady, “For bringing us all together and recognizing the importance of this holiday and the importance of unity in our country.”

The performers at the event were sitar player Rishab Sharma, and the Sa Dance Company.

The following is President Biden’s and First Lady Jill Biden’s official statement released by the White House on the occasion of Diwali –

Jill and I wish a happy Diwali to the more than one billion Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists celebrating this Festival of Lights in the United States, India, and around the world. As we host the official White House Diwali reception, we are honored to light the diya surrounded by members of the most diverse Administration in American history—led by Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black American and South Asian American to become Vice President.
 
On this day, we give thanks for the optimism, courage, and empathy demonstrated by the incredible South Asian community all across America. Together, South Asian Americans reflect the soul of who we are as a nation, whether helping us emerge stronger from this pandemic, building an economy that works for everyone, or serving and protecting our communities and our country.
 
But, even as we celebrate this gathering of light, we know—as this community has experienced too often—that there is always darkness lurking. American history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that that we have never fully lived up to it. By marking the victory of light over darkness, Diwali is a reminder that each of us has the power to bring light to the world, whether here in America or around the world.
 
With prayers, dances, fireworks, and sweets, may all who observe Diwali enjoy the chance to celebrate and connect, to feel the pride of community, and to remember the power in the gathering of light.

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