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US State Secretary Kerry hosts first Diwali celebrations, hails Indian diaspora

US Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a Diwali celebration as Indian Ambassador S. Jaishankar looks on. (Photo: US State Dept.)

US Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a Diwali celebration as Indian Ambassador S. Jaishankar looks on. (Photo: US State Dept.)

Keeping up the tradition ushered in by US President Barack Obama since 2009, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted 2014 Diwali celebrations for the first time in Washington DC, while Indian Amabassador S. Jaishankar joined him in lighting the Diwali Diya on the auspicious day.

Resident Hindu Priest Narayanachar L. Digalakote from the Sri Siva Vishnu temple presided over the ceremony and draped Kerry with a traditional shawl.

“Today, the South Asian diaspora is a pillar of every aspect of American society,” Kerry said. Praising South Asians who have reached highest ranks in corporate and social service sector, he said, “They are a driving force behind American leadership and science and innovation, and in the history of our nation… It is hard to find any group of Americans who have achieved more in such a relatively short period of time.”

Earlier, US President Barack Obama in a video message wished a “Happy Diwali” and “Saal Mubarak” saying the festival was a reminder that light will ultimately prevail. Recalling the 2009 Diwali celebrations held in the White House, Obama said  his wife Michelle had celebrated the festival in Mumbai during his 2010 visit to India.

“I was proud to host the first Diwali celebration at the White House back in 2009. Since then, we’ve continued to mark this holiday to honour the rich traditions that define the American family,” he said.

“And I know Michelle and I will never forget the wonderful time we had celebrating Diwali in Mumbai with food, dancing, and the company of friends. So, to all the families gathering together this Diwali to reflect on all the blessings of the past year, I wish you a joyous celebration and Saal Mubarak,” he said.

In his pseech, Secretary Kerry pointed out the warm relations between the two natons and described India as “a country of enormous energy and power,” Kerry said the two countries were working together in from fighting against terrorism to achieving greater progress by pushing back the boundaries of science and technology.

India and the US had “worked hard to prove that we were, in fact, natural partners,”he said. “We are two optimistic nations who believe that history doesn’t shape us, but that we have the power to shape history. And that spirit of hope and optimism is really at the centre of the Diwali celebration,” Kerry said.

Kerry also hailed “the accomplishments of the many hundreds of thousands of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain Americans who live now all across our country in every community.”

In New York, Joe Crowley, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, sent his “best wishes to all those celebrating Diwali, both here in the US and around the globe.”

He also announced that the second annual Congressional Diwali celebration will be held on Nov 19.

(IANS)

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