WASHINGTON: The United States Naval Observatory, the official residence of Vice-President Kamala Harris, hosted its very first Diwali celebration with members of the Indian-American community including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists on Friday evening. The Festival of Lights, held by Harris, symbolises a massive leap forward in political recognition and appreciation for South Asians and their heritage, according to Indian American Impact, an organisation that elevates the voices of the Indian-Americans to ensure that every level of the US government represents the community.
Several prominent Indian-Americans including Neera Tanden, senior advisor to President Joe Biden; Vivek Murthy, US surgeon general; Rich Verma, former US ambassador to India and Ajay Bhutoria, commissioner on President Biden’s advisory commission on Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders; were present at the event.
The celebration comes ahead of the upcoming midterm elections in which Indian American Impact has invested time and resources into ensuring an even higher voter turnout and electing South Asian leaders who have been historically denied a seat at the table, the organisation said in a statement before Harris’ Diwali event.
“It is a pleasure and an honour to be able to celebrate a traditional South Asian holiday with Vice President Harris, the first-ever Black, South Asian woman to hold this title in our nation’s 245 year history.
This is a truly historic occasion with a truly historic VP. I believe I can speak for our entire community when I say it is deeply moving for the Biden administration to observe one of the world’s oldest religious festivals — dating back over 2,500 years — and uplift the amazing strides our country has taken towards expanding South Asian representation by inviting and recognizing some of our most distinguished leaders,” said Neil Makhija, Indian American Impact executive director.
“As we’ve shown, our community is not disinterested or disengaged from American politics and we are certain that this November we’ll once again demonstrate our power at the polls. We are beyond prepared to advance our unique issues and solutions and stand alongside our fellow communities of colour this November. Like our Diya lanterns lit up the darkness to triumph over evil, Indian-Americans will rise to the occasion for many elections to come,” Makhija added.