Barack Obama celebrates Diwali in the White House

October 15th, 2009 - 7:33 pm ICT by Aishwarya Bhatt  

Barack Obama Washington, Oct 15 (THAINDIAN NEWS) The US President Barack Obama brought the Diwali celebrations to the White House when he wished everyone a “Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak”. He thus, became the first US President to personally join the Diwali celebrations. Diwali is the Indian Festival of Lights.

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 symbolize the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance,” said Obama at a ceremony in the East Room.

“And 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,” he added at the ceremony held for the first time in the main White House.”

Obama also lit the traditional lamp (diya) with a candle as a Hindu priest with a ceremonial tilak on his forehead chanted “Asatoma Sadgamaya” (Lead us from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to liberation) which is an invocation from the Upanishads.

Obama listened intently as the priest ended his invocation with “Om Shanti Shanti”. The priest then did Namaste to the President and the President returned the favor. He then left the gathering with greetings of “Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak” to everyone.

“Thank you Mr. President for being the first president to come to the Diwali ceremony,” a journalist called out to Obama. “Yeah, isn’t that something?” the president shot back.

The President’s office also presented the traditional box of Indian sweets to all the 150 guests present on the occasion.

This first of a kind Diwali ceremony also shared the platform with another event where Obama signed an executive order re-establishing the President’s advisory committee and White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

He said, “And that’s why I’m signing this executive order today, reestablishing the advisory commission and White House initiative created by President Clinton 10 years ago. Because when any of our citizens are unable to fulfill 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. Not to guarantee anybody’s success or to solve everybody’s problems, but to ensure that we’re living up to our nation’s ideals; to ensure that we can each pursue our own version of happiness, and that we continue to be a nation where all things are still possible for all people. That’s the impact that our government can have.”

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