Indiaspora honors Indian Americans in public service at Diwali celebration

Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders, hosted a Diwali celebration with several community partners in the US Capitol Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC to honor Indian Americans who have been elected, appointed, and nominated to public office, as well as staffers on Capitol Hill, for their contributions to government service

Oct 27, 2021
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Indiaspora honors Indian Americans in public service

Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization of global Indian diaspora leaders, hosted a Diwali celebration with several community partners in the US Capitol Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC to honor Indian Americans who have been elected, appointed, and nominated to public office, as well as staffers on Capitol Hill, for their contributions to government service.

“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.

The event included remarks from senior administration officials, including Neera Tanden, Senior Adviser to President Joe Biden, who was recently named White House Staff Secretary, and serves as the highest-ranking Indian American woman in the administration after Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, who spoke about the inspiration 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,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy.

All four members of Congress of Indian heritage, including the longest serving Indian American in Congress Rep. Ami Bera; Vice Chair of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives Rep. Ro Khanna; Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian American woman elected to the House of Representatives; and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi all spoke about what Diwali meant to them, and their call to public service.

Other Members of Congress also spoke about the significance of the day.

“As we close out 2021, I plan to introduce legislation that would further enshrine this day of light, Diwali, as a federal holiday,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who was instrumental in helping Indiaspora and community partners in their advocacy for a United States Postal Stamp commemorating Diwali which came to fruition in 2016.

“Diwali marks the beginning of a new year and an opportunity to celebrate the abundance of good in this world with family and close friends. I am proud to see how ties between the US and India have strengthened over the years,” said Senator John Cornyn, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, in a video message submitted to Indiaspora.

The program included a diya (lamp) lighting ceremony with the speakers and remarks from several elected and appointed leaders in the federal government. Featured guests included:

  • Vice Admiral Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

  • Neera Tanden, Senior Advisor and Staff Secretary to President Joe Biden 

  • Congressman James Clyburn, House Majority Whip (SC-6) 

  • Congressman Steve Chabot, U.S. Representative and Co-Chair of House India Caucus (OH-1)

  • Congressman Ami Bera, U.S. Representative (CA-7)

  • Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, U.S Representative (WA-7)

  • Congressman Ro Khanna, U.S. Representative and Vice Chair of House India Caucus (CA-17)

  • Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, U.S. Representative (IL-8) 

  • Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CA-27)

  • Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, U.S. Representative (NY-12)

  • Congressman Al Green, U.S. Representative (TX-9)

  • Congressman Tim Ryan, U.S. Representative (OH-13)

“We are honored to celebrate Diwali on Capitol Hill and share our traditions with the leaders who have dedicated themselves to serve the public. The Indian diaspora has had a profound impact in American society, and their diverse contributions continue to strengthen our nation,” said Sanjeev Joshipura, Executive Director of Indiaspora, who served as emcee for the evening.

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.

Actress and singer Mary Millben, a Helen Hayes Award Nominee and recording artist, performed “Om Jai Jagdish Hare,” inviting the audience to sing with her.

Several fellow community partners joined Indiaspora to celebrate Diwali: