Obama lights Diwali diya at White House

Washington : Highlighting the universal message of Diwali of “victory of light over darkness, hope over despair”, US President Barack Obama lit a traditional diya to celebrate Diwali with Indian-Americans at a reception at the White House complex.

“Diwali is a special holiday for millions across the country”, said Obama, who became the first US president to join Diwali celebrations at the White House in 2009.

“Michelle and I greatly enjoyed the occasion and the celebration in India last year,” he said, recalling the Diwali festivities in Mumbai the first couple had joined during the president’s first visit to India in November 2010.

“Diwali is the time to celebrate victory of light over darkness, hope over despair. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists consider the day sacred. The message of this day is truly universal,” Obama said at the closed press event Friday.

Obama acknowledged the contributions of the Indian-American community in every field in the country, from New York taxi drivers to the teenager who won the Google science fair this year.

Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, US Ambassador to Belize Vinai Thummalapally, president of the Centre for American Progress Neera Tanden, Hindu chaplain Pratima Dhar and a Sikh delegation from the Golden Temple were among some 200 attendees.

On Diwali day in 2009, Obama established the President’s Advisory Committee on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, headed by Kiran Ahuja, who he said was doing outstanding work.

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