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On October 26, 2021, Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders, hosted a Diwali celebration with several community partners in the U.S. Capitol Rayburn House Office Building (Washington DC) to honor Indian Americans who have been elected, appointed and nominated to public office, and staffers on Capitol Hill, who have contributed to government service. Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by several faiths across the world and is often seen as an occasion to usher in a new year or new beginnings. This year’s program began with an interfaith prayer led by several community partners, which brought together different religions, including Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist faiths. The program included a performance of “Om Jai Jagdish Hare,” by actress and singer Mary Millben, a Helen Hayes Award Nominee and recording artist, a diya lighting ceremony with the speakers, and remarks from several elected and appointed leaders in the federal government.
“With such a growing number of Indian Americans serving in all facets of government it felt fitting that during Diwali, one of the most auspicious and celebrated occasions of the year, we recognize the seva, or service, of these public servants in our community,” said MR Rangaswami, Founder of Indiaspora.
Senior administration officials attended the event: Neera Tanden, Senior Adviser to President Joe Biden and recently named White House Staff Secretary serving as the highest-ranking Indian American woman after Vice President Kamala Harris; and Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, were among those who spoke about the inspiration and meaning behind Diwali. “The fundamental lesson of Diwali is to recognize and remember our light and the light within others, and to focus on that. That is our charge today, in a world that has been turned upside down by this pandemic as well as a growing pandemic of polarization,” commented Murthy.
All four members of Congress of Indian heritage– Rep. Ami Bera; Vice-Chair of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives and longest-serving Indian American in Congress, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American women elected to the House of Representatives, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, all spoke about their call to public service and what Diwali meant to them.
“I think of Diwali as a time of sustenance … the food, the lights, and a community event. To find sustenance in the things we grew up with which make us who we are today, and that is why the work of Indiaspora is important,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal
Several fellow community partners joined Indiaspora to celebrate Diwali and the positive spirit of service that accompanies it including; Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington, JAINA: Federation of Jain Associations in North America, Indian American Impact Project, Hindu American Foundation, Dharma into Action, Association of Indian Muslims of America, All American Diwali, Art of Living Foundation, US-India Business Council, and Global Indian Jewish Relations Institute.
Indiaspora is a nonprofit community of powerful global Indian leaders from diverse backgrounds and professions who are committed to inspiring the diaspora to be a force for positive impact by providing a platform to collaborate, engage, and catalyze social change.