Diya lit at White House Diwali celebration

Diwali celebrated across America

Recognizing the growing importance of India, Indian Americans and the rich culture of India, President Barack Obama celebrated Diwali Oct. 30 by lighting the first-ever diya in the Oval Office of the White House and hoped that his successors would continue the tradition.

While the festival of lights has traditionally been celebrated by the Indian-American community, especially the Hindus, this year it has attracted more attention of politicians across the board welcoming he festival that signifies triumph of good over evil.

Obama, who was the first president to celebrate Diwali personally at the White House in 2009, talked about this momentous occasion in a Facebook post soon after he kindled the diya in his Oval Office with some Indian Americans working in his administration.

“Michelle and I will never forget how the people of India welcomed us with open arms and hearts and danced with us in Mumbai on Diwali,” he recalled. “I was proud to be the first president to host a Diwali celebration at the White House in 2009, and Michelle and I will never forget how the people of India welcomed us with open arms and hearts and danced with us in Mumbai on Diwali,” Obama said.

“This year, I was honored to kindle the first-ever diya in the Oval Office — a lamp that symbolizes how darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future presidents will continue,” Obama said on the White House Facebook page, which became viral on social media. On behalf of the entire Obama family, I wish you and your loved ones peace and happiness on this Diwali,” Obama said.

“To all who are celebrating the festival of lights across America and around the world, happy Diwali. As Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists light the diya, share in prayers, decorate their homes, and open their doors to host and feast with loved ones, we recognize that this holiday rejoices in the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance,” said the president.

“It also speaks to a broader truth about our shared American experience. It’s a reminder of what’s possible when we see beyond the differences that too often divide us. It’s a reflection of the hopes and dreams that bind us together,” he said.

Obama said that it is a time to renew the collective obligation to deepen those bonds, to stand in each other’s shoes and see the world through each other’s eyes, and to embrace each other as brothers and sisters — and as fellow Americans.

Both presidential candidates – Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – have indicated their respect for the festival. At the Republican Hindu Charity concert in New Jersey, Trump lighted a diya on stage. Last week, his campaign released a video in which he wishes people a ‘happy Diwali’ ahead of the festival. Clinton issued a press statement in which she wished everyone a happy Diwali and “Saal Mubarak.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greeted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains across the world on the occasion of Diwali. “On Sunday, nearly a billion Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world — including more than two million Americans — will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. For members of these faiths, lighting the lamp (the diya) is a reminder that light prevails over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil,” Clinton said. “To those of you celebrating this joyous occasion, I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak,” she said.

Senator Tim Kaine, who is also the Democratic vice presidential nominee, tweeted, “Diwali is a beautiful reminder of the ultimate victory of light over darkness. Saal Mubarak to all those celebrating!”

Senator John Cornyn, who is co-chair of the bipartisan Senate India Caucus said, “Diwali’s message of compassion is one that resonates with all Texans. Wishing you a joyous and prosperous new year.” Senator and a former Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz said the central theme of Diwali reinforces the “shared hope and common outlook” the U.S. and India enjoy as “friends” and allies. “As we mark Diwali, may the United States-India alliance be a shining light of truth and peace,” Cruz said in a statement. Several Lawmakers from across the nation also issued statements, greeting people on the occasion of Diwali.

Also, joining Indians around the world, the United Nations celebrated Diwali for the first time this year. “Happy Diwali! UN celebrates Diwali for 1st time,” Syed Akbaruddin, India’s permanent representative to the UN, tweeted Oct. 29. Thank you president of the General Assembly for this initiative,” he said. From this year, Diwali was made an optional holiday at the UN and a message was displayed on the UN building, greeting the whole world, “Happy Diwali.”

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