President Trump holds Diwali ceremony at White House, Indian-American lawmakers celebrate festival

President Donald J. Trump and guests participate in a Diwali ceremony and lighting of the Diya Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

On Oct. 24, President Trump held a ceremony at the White House where he lighted the ceremonial lamp to signify the start of the Festival of Lights. Diwali has been celebrated in the White House since 2009, when President Obama started the practice.

“As Diwali commences, @FLOTUS Melania and I wish those observing the Festival of Lights a blessed and happy celebration! #Happy Diwali!”, the President tweeted on Oct. 27, the actual date for Diwali this year.. The video of the event was posted, showing 20 Indian-American members of his administration surrounding Trump, including Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Republican National Committee also released a statement from its Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, Oct. 26, saying, “Happy Diwali to our Hindu, Jain, and Sikh friends celebrating in America and abroad. May you and your families have a joyful festival of lights,” said Chairwoman McDaniel. “Together, we celebrate our awareness of inner light and honor the importance of these rich traditions that highlight our diverse communities and strengthen our country.”

Meanwhile, the five Indian-American members of Congress, were featured on national print and television news media speaking about their engagement in Diwali celebrations. They celebrated the festival Oct. 25. They include Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington; Ro Khanna, D-California; Dr. Ami Bera, D-California, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois; as well as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, the first Indian American woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a statement in commemoration of Diwali, saying, “Diwali reminds us that dharma – goodness, duty, and righteousness – must always prevail. As we celebrate the Festival of Lights, let us commit to bringing hope and light to our work and our world,” said Jayapal.  “Let us continue to oppose the forces of hate, racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia that seek to divide and distract us. Let us call out injustice and inequality wherever it occurs, whether on the borders of our land or in the lands of our birth.”

Earlier, on Oct. 22, The New York Times highlighted Jayapal and other Indian-American members of Congress who celebrate the holiday.

Rep. Khanna posted a video along with his statement saying, ” #Diwali is all about reflecting on our lives, learning from our mistakes, and growing in the coming year. It’s also about good sweets, new clothes, and time with family and friends. Forgiveness, reflection, + cooperation are essential year round, especially in a moment like this.”

Rep Bera tweeted, Wishing a safe, happy, and healthy #Diwali to those celebrating in Saramento, across the country, and around the world.”

Senator Kamala Harris, in her statement said, “May the Festival of Lights inspire us to lift our communities up from darkness, live with hope instead of despair, and stand up for what is right. I hope everyone celebrating gets the chance to spend time with their loved ones on such a joyous occasion.”

Rep. Krishnamoorthi spoke of the significance of Diwali as a time to reflect on the victory of light over darkness and good over evil, according to news reports. Krishnamoorthi attended several constituent events celebrating Diwali in the days leading up to the festival.

“I want to wish a happy Diwali to all the Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrating this time of thanks and reflection on the triumph of light over darkness. I wish all those celebrating safety and happiness as they gather with family, light lamps in the home, and pray for good health and peace in the year to come,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement sent to News India Times.

Several other lawmakers who were not of Indian origin, also spoke about the importance of the festival.




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