Largest Sikh Gathering Makes Impact in U.S. Capital

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History was made when over 20 elected representatives of the U.S. Congress came and spoke to the thunderous applause of Sikhs from across America in an overflowing hearing room of the Dirksen Senate Building of the U.S. Capitol. The Sikh American Heritage Dinner event organized by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education was to "highlight the contributions of Sikhs towards building and strengthening America." There are close to half million Sikhs in the U.S.A.

History was made when over 20 elected representatives of the U.S. Congress came and spoke to the thunderous applause of Sikhs from across America in an overflowing hearing room of the Dirksen Senate Building of the U.S. Capitol. The Sikh American Heritage Dinner event organized by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education was to "highlight the contributions of Sikhs towards building and strengthening America."

Sikhs from all over the country with Five Congressional Leaders at the Sikh American Heritage DInner event at the Capitol Hill Organized by SCORE ( Sikh Council on Religion and Education) : 3rd from left Congressman Andre Carson, 2nd from left Congresswomen Hilda Solis, Congressman Brad Sherman and Congressman Ed Royce, and 2nd from right Congressman Radonovich. Dr. Rajwant Singh (from left - Amandeep Singh, Baldev Singh Grewal, Sukhminder Singh Sandhu, Guru Amrit Singh, Sat Mandir Singh, Amardeep Singh, a member of Herndon and Harry Gill).

Over 300 guests from many different states came during a working day to reach out to their elected representatives in U.S. Congress. "This is the largest gathering of the Sikhs ever to assemble at the Capitol Hill to make their case" said Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of SCORE.

On this occasion, SCORE honored a few Sikhs for their contribution to the American life in art, science, education and business.

Congressman Mike Honda and Congressman Joe Wilson were honored for their contributions to America and for their support of Sikh issues in U.S. Honda was honored with an award in the name of the 9th guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Wilson was given an award in the name of Bhagat Singh Thind, a Sikh activist and World War I veteran who fought for citizenship in the early part of the 20th century in America.

Sikhs honoring Congressman Joe Wilson, a powerful Republican leader.
From Left to right: Dr. Rajwant Singh, Jasbir Singh Bhatia from Florida, Minoo Kaur Nandra from Viriginia, Harjit Singh Galhotra from Houston, Sukhdev Singh Darhele from Virginia, Congressman Joe Wilson, Co-chair of the House Indian Caucus and Dr. Hardam Singh Azad from Houston, TX. He was given an award in the name of Bhagat Singh Thind, a Sikh soldier in World War I and fought for his citizenship in U.S.

Both Wilson and Honda expressed deep appreciation for this gesture by the Sikh community. Honda had played role in speaking against prejudices against Sikhs arising out of the 9/11 tragedy and against the TSA rules to check turbans at the airport. Wilson moved a resolution in the U.S. Congress to have an official portrait of Dalip Singh Saund in the U. S. Capitol Hill building and that portrait is prominently displayed. Saund was the first Asian, Indian and Sikh to be elected in the U.S.

Sikhs honor Congressman Mike Honda, respected member from the Democratic side.

From Left to right: Surinder Singh Chawla, Mohinder Singh Taneja, Dr. Rajwant Singh, Mrs Bagga from NY, Bhupinder Singh Bhurji from NY, Congressman Mike Honda, Harpreet Singh Sandhu from California, Bakshish Singh from Maryland, Giani Jagtar Singh Jachak from India and Dr. Surinder Singh Chauhan from Cleveland.

Mike Honda started his comments with the Sikh greeting with audience joining in. While thanking the community, he said, "I know you bring us here to honor us, but the fact remains that it is us who come here to honor your work, your presence and your contributions."

Honda added, "Thank you for teaching all of us who you are, for only in that way will we become the country that you dream of and that we all dream of together. While referring the case of Sikh student whose turban was lighted in school, he said, "We ought to make sure that no child, no member of the community shall be put aside, put down, put out for what they believe in, for what they appear to be, or for what religion they practice."

Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of SCORE, said, "Sikh American Heritage Dinner event enables Sikh-Americans to gather in Washington DC to celebrate and honor those who have promoted a positive Sikh presence as part of the American cultural fabric. We have never earlier showed our political clout. This is just a beginning because we can easily bring over 40 Congressmen under one roof to support the Sikh cause and Sikh issues in America."

According to Kanwarpal Singh, the media coordinator for the event, "This is the fifth year the dinner has been held since it was first initiated in 2001."

"It is one way of being proactive," Sartaj Singh Dhami said. "We can be proud of who we are."

Opening the event, the Executive director of the Interfaith Conference, Clark Lobenstine, offered a few words of prayer. The event was to be bipartisan and therefore congressional leaders of both Republican and Democratic Party were present.

Those who were honored at this event were: Mr. Sandeep Singh Caberwal, a Sikh entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and a model, wears a turban, has a beard and was chosen by designer Kenneth Cole in its recent fashion campaign: Ms. Tami Yeager and Mr. Preetmohan Singh for their film documentary "A Dream in Doubt, " which explores the real life story of Mr. Rana Singh Sodhi's family, whose brother was murdered as the first hate crime victim in AZ in the 9/11 aftermath; Darshpreet Singh , a recent graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. was co-captain of the Men's Basketball team and fan favorite, and believed to be the only turbaned Sikh to play in an National college basketball game; Dr. Jagjit Singh Khalsa is the Chief of Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse at the US National Institutes of Health; Gurvendra Singh Suri founder & CEO Optimal Solutions Integration, Inc., a successful technology consulting Company in Dallas, TX.

2008 Sikh honorees of the Capitol Hill Sikh Dinner organized by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) in Washington: From left to right (Standing) Mohinder Singh Taneja, Darspreet Singh, Sandeep Singh Caberwal, Gurvendra Singh Suri, Rana Singh Sodhi, Preet Mohan Singh, Dr. Rajwant Singh, - (sitting) from left Surinder Singh chawla, Dr. Jagjit Singh Khalsa, Raghbir Singh Subhanpur, and Tami Yeager.

In addition, Raghbir Singh Subhanpur, Sikh business owner from NY and President of New York Shromani Akali Dal was honored with Community Service award and Surinder Singh Chawla, Nassau County Human Rights Commissioner, was honored for Social Activism and Service. Ro Khanna, an Indian American political activist from California was also honored for his role in supporting Sikh issues.

Jaspal Singh Bagga from Philadelphia, Manjit Singh Dasuha, Bibi Inderjit Kaur, Congressman Radonovich, and Dr. Daljit Singh Sawhney.

Gwen Hubbard of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spoke and said, "We extremely proud and grateful for the efforts of the Sikh community." Sikhs have assisted the FBI in many ways, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Congressman Wally Herger, who represents over 15,000 Sikhs in the second congressional district of California, described the Sikh community as "very good citizens, neighbors, and good friends of mine." His constituency which envelops Yuba City has the largest population of Sikhs in one voting district.

Sartaj Singh Dhami, an Outreach Director of SCORE, "With the large turnout, both from Sikhs through out the United States and House leadership, the annual dinner hosted by SCORE allows for a great opportunity for Sikhs to gather in Washington D.C. to promote their presence in America. Furthermore it allows a great networking opportunity, as many Sikhs from California, Texas, and New York attend the event in great numbers."

The legislators in attendance were recognized for their efforts for cooperation and were presented with the book Guru Nanak and his Teachings.

Congressman Frank Pallone of the sixth district of New Jersey has attended all five Sikh Heritage Dinner Receptions. "Sikhs are proud and strong people," Pallone said. "The Sikh women are also very strong and play an important role and I have deep respect for your community."

Along with honoring Congressmen, the event recognized the youth that has served the Sikh community.

The event was inspirational and motivating, as seen by Dr. Hardam Singh Azad from Houston, who said "We are not content with being spectators; we get involved."

From Left to Right Dr. Rajwant Singh, Mohinder Singh Taneja from NY, Raghbir Singh Subhanpur being honored with Community Service Award by Dr. Kirpal Kaur Bajaj of Maryland and Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

Some of the other prominent congressional leaders who spoke at the event were: Congressman Costa, Congressman Radanovich, Congresswomen Hilda Solis, Congressman Ed Royce, Congressman Ted Poe, and Congressman Andre Carson. Senator Hillary Clinton also sent her staff to attend and in addition her office helped in arranging the event.

For More information
Kanwarpal Singh
443-562-2542

or

Jan Du Plain
202-486-7004
jan @ duplain.com

Sikh Council on Religion and Education
2448 Reddie Drive #14
Silver Spring, Maryland 20902
http://www.sikhcouncilusa.org

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Kanwarpal Singh
SCORE
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