Vice President Kamala Harris, State Department host Diwali celebrations

Vice President Kamala Harris addressing guests during the Diwali celebrations at the US Naval Observatory on November 8, 2023, in Washington DC. PHOTO: Twitter Kevin Thomas

Washington DC: Amid calls from numerous groups to boycott Diwali celebrations due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, hosted Diwali celebrations emphasizing the values of truth and light over darkness, at the US Naval Observatory on November 8, 2023.

While acknowledging ongoing global and domestic challenges, Harris told the nearly 300 Indian-American guests gathered at her official residence “Let us celebrate this evening and Diwali with an understanding that we each have the power in these moments of darkness to bring light.”

Floral decorartions and guests during the Diwali celebrations at the US Naval Observatory on November 8, 2023, in Washington DC. PHOTO: Twitter Kevin Thomas

“It is critically important that we bring the American hostages home and that we prevent escalation in that region. So I will speak those words, understanding that it is critically important that when we celebrate something like Diwali, it is about also shedding light in a way that is about speaking truth,” PTI reported. Referring to the Palestinian people, Harris underscored, “I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again, they have a right and deserve to have an opportunity for self-determination and dignity. We’ll continue to support that as well.”

“I wanted to just be clear with everyone that President Biden and I are working to support Israel’s right to defend itself. We support the need for humanitarian aid to be received by the people in Gaza. We believe it is very important to not conflate who the Palestinians are with Hamas and understand the difference,” Harris added.

Inviting everyone on the occasion to celebrate Diwali, Harris recalled, “I’ve shared with many of you… growing up we would go back to India about every other year and usually it was around the timing to avoid monsoon season,” adding “So it invariably was around Christmas time here, or sometime between October and Christmas time and most often it was around Diwali. And those are some of my fondest memories of being in India and the time that we spent with our family.”

Indian-American lawmakers Ro Khanna, Shri Thanedar, Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and New York State Senator Kevin Thomas were present along with other guests at the celebrations. “It was an honor to celebrate Diwali with VP Kamala Harris in D.C. tonight. May your Diwali be free from darkness and abundant with light. Happy Diwali!!” tweeted State Senator Thomas.

Meanwhile, the State Department also held Diwali celebrations at the National Museum of American Diplomacy on November 9, 2023.

Welcoming guests during the celebrations, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Richard Verma noted, “The National Museum of American Diplomacy is deeply symbolic because diplomacy thrives when it embodies some of Diwali’s key tenets including community and hope,” while noting Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in New Delhi, “reaffirming the deep and rich shared values of our relationship with the people of the region.”

 “Diwali is a special time of the year and reflects the vibrancy of the cultures across South Asia… we also know this is a time of struggle for many around the world,” Verma said while calling everyone to reaffirm their dedication to collaboratively promote peace, and harmony.

He added, “Diwali is an important part of the identity of many South Asians, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists around the world. It has many different meanings for religious communities, but millions more celebrate Diwali for its positive and inspirational message even if they don’t view it religiously.”

Having served in South Asia and as the United States Ambassador to India, Verma vividly remembered the significance of Diwali’s message from his firsthand experience. “I’ve cherished the opportunity to pass these stories onto my own kids – times filled with laughter and cheer, times characterized by sharing and bonding, and times that unify every home and every heart.”

Verma said that nine years ago, Secretary John Kerry celebrated Diwali for the first time at the State Department. During the occasion, he emphasized the significance of getting together to celebrate the diversity inherent in everyone’s “backgrounds and beliefs,” while encouraging them to acknowledge “shared blessings and responsibilities.”

Referring to Kerry’s quote on that day “I guarantee you this will not be our last event” Verma maintained, “I’m so glad to be with you as we continue the important tradition at the State Department of connecting and respecting cultures.”



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