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Obama celebrates deepavali

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Obama lights Diya, celebrates Diwali
Updated on Thursday, October 15, 2009, 10:38 IST
Tags:<Barack Obama : Zee News>Barack Obama,
<Diya : Zee News>Diya,
<Diwali : Zee News>Diwali
Washington: Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting the ceremonial
lamp at the White House amidst chanting of Vedic mantras seeking world
peace, becoming the first US President to personally grace the

"I think it's fitting that we begin this work in the week leading up
to the holiday of Diwali -- the festival of lights -- when members of
some of the world's greatest faiths celebrate the triumph of good over
evil," Obama said in his remarks on the occasion at a White House
function held at its historic East Room yesterday.


This is for the first time that a US President attended and celebrated
Diwali at the White House -– thus giving an official recognition to
the festival of lights celebrated across the world by millions of
Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

"This coming Saturday, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, here
in America and around the world, will celebrate this holiday by
lighting 'Diyas', or lamps, which symbolise the victory of light over
darkness, and knowledge over ignorance," Obama said.

Among those present at the occasion were several eminent members of
the Indian community, nearly half a dozen members of his Cabinet and
several Indian American members of his administration. The visiting
Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, and Indian Ambassador to the
US Meera Shankar graced the occasion.

"While this is a time of rejoicing, it's also a time for reflection,
when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment
to reach out to those in need," Obama said, minutes before lighting
the lamp while Pandit Narayanacharya Digalakote from the Sri Shiva
Vishnu temple chanted Vedic mantras.

"While the significance of the holiday for each faith varies, all of
them mark it by gathering with family members to pray and decorate the
house and enjoy delicious food and sweet treats," said the US

"In that spirit of celebration and contemplation, I am happy to light
the White House Diya, and wish you all a Happy Diwali, and a Saal
Mubarak," Obama said amidst a round of applause from the audience
invited for the occasion.

Using the occasion, Obama announced to re-establish the advisory
commission for Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and White
House initiative created by the former US President Bill Clinton, 10
years ago. Obama signed an executive order at this occasion.

"On a personal note, when I talk about America's AAPI communities,
I'm talking about my own family: my sister, Maya; my brother-in-law,
Konrad; my beautiful nieces, Suhaila and Savita; and the folks I grew
up with in Indonesia, and in Honolulu, as part of the Hawai'ian Ohana,
or family," he said.

Obama said the AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, but
they embody a rich diversity, and a story of striving and success that
are uniquely American.

"But focusing on all of these achievements doesn't tell the whole
story, and that's part of why we're here. It's tempting, given the
strengths of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, for
us to buy into the myth of the "model minority," and to overlook the
very real challenges that certain AAPI communities are facing: from
health disparities to educational disparities, that still exist in
some communities, to economic disparities – higher rates of poverty in
some communities, and barriers to employment and workplace advancement
in others," he said.

Some AAPIs, particularly new Americans and refugees, Obama said still
face language barriers. "Others have been victims of unthinkable hate
crimes, particularly in the months after September 11th -- crimes
driven by ignorance and prejudice that are an affront to everything
that this nation stands for," he said.

"And then there are the disparities that we don't even know about
because our data collection methods still aren't up to par. Too often,
AAPIs are all lumped into one category, so we don't have accurate
numbers reflecting the challenges of each individual community," he

Noting that smaller communities in particular can get lost, their
needs and concerns buried in a spreadsheet, Obama said: "That's why I
am signing this executive order today, re-establishing the advisory
commission and White House initiative created by President Clinton 10
years ago."

Obama said: "Because when any of our citizens are unable to fulfil
their potential due to factors that have nothing to do with their
talent, character, or work ethic, then I believe there's a role for
our government to play."
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