Washington, DC (PRWEB) December 21, 2015
“President Obama stands with, he stands behind you and he stands in solidarity with you. And we all have a responsibility to remind Americans what makes us great” were the words of welcome and assurance by Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s Senior political advisor as Sikhs gathered to celebrate Guru Nanak’s birth-anniversary at the White House.
Over 125 Sikhs from all over the country joined the White House celebrations, a regular feature of the Obama Administration. The program opened with Jesse Moore, Associate Director of Public Engagement welcoming all the guests from as far away as California and India.
This was followed by a Sikh hymn on classical instruments like Taus, Dilruba and Jodi performed by Manpreet Singh and Raghubir Singh from New Jersey.
When Valerie Jarrett greeted “Happy Gurpurab” a room full of Sikh men, women, and children cheered and clapped. She continued by saying, “We are so delighted to have you here to celebrate this joyous occasion. We are all Americans. We hope that you feel at home here. This is your home. You are part of such a vital member of our community and a big and vibrant part of what makes our country so great. So when your community comes under attack, we are all in danger. When your place of worship is vandalized, or temples, churches and mosques should be uneasy as well. It is in times like these when we should step back and need to focus on the teachings of Guru Nanak. For when we focus on the values that bring us together as a nation, we can accomplish so much more than we are divided. Thank you so much for joining a time”
Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), said, “The Sikh community is grateful for the powerful and supportive words of President Obama’s team today. This sends an assuring signal to the entire community that this nation stands behind it. President Obama’s gesture to hold Guru Nanak’s Gurpurab every year at the White House displays his love for the community.”
Valerie Jarrett was given a Phulkari shawl, a typical Punjabi speciality, and coffee table book on Sikh heritage and ethos. She was honored by Sikh representatives from Sikh Coalition, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, United Sikhs and Professor Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh and Major Kamal Singh Kalsi, a turbaned Sikh doctor serving in the US Armed Forces.
Gurwin Singh Ahuja, Executive Director of the National Sikh Campaign, said, “This year's Guru Nanak celebration at the White House has been monumental for the Sikh community. It is clear that the Obama administration carefully considering the concerns of the Sikh-American community.”
Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, said, “It is important to talk about the challenges facing the Sikh community. We, at the Department of Justice continue to use all of the tools available to combat any violence or hate against the Sikh community. We understand the impressive needs to protect all of our communities from discrimination. We recognize the fear and concern that you may be confronting everyday with the rise of backlash violence.”
She further added, “We will continue to do everything in our power with your input, with your voices, and with your engagement with every step of the process to ensure that this country remains the land of justice and equal opportunity for all. As we honor the anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birthday, his legacy reminds us of the shared values not only central to the Sikh religion but also to the national identity of this nation, which are equality, tolerance and compassion.
Keynote address was given by Dr. Amritjit Singh of Ohio University and Dr. Nikky- Guninder Kaur Singh of Colby College. Both spoke on the teachings of Guru Nanak.
Dr. Amritjit Singh, the Langston Hughes Professor of English and African American Studies at Ohio University, emphasized that, “Guru Nanak in his own times was a crusader for both civil rights and civil liberties, anticipating by some 450 years Martin Luther King’s search for the “beloved community,” a completely integrated society, a community of love and justice. In Sikh history, such a search would lead eventually to the very distinctive Sikh concept of Sant-Sipahi (the Saint-Soldier), integrating spiritual aspirations and social justice goals to form an egalitarian community that values love and compassion for all creatures as a manifestation of Divine immanence. “
He added, “Guru Nanak’s message has special resonance for us today where fear and ignorance are giving rise to hatred, violence, and intolerance. The Guru had a sharp eye for the patterns of hypocrisy, intolerance, and exploitation.”
Professor Nikki-Gurinder Kaur Singh of Colby College said, “How wonderful to be welcomed so warmly. It is a great journey of Sikhs in America. They have made and are making splendid contribution to Agriculture, medicine, science, culture, education, economy, politics, army and safeguarding the environment. Sadly the country that they have been dedicated to know so little about Sikhs.”
She added, “What makes me proud are young Sikhs who are taking on the responsibility to educate fellow Americans. The legacy of Guru Nanak empowers them with an identity, which is equally American and Sikh. It is a profound symbol of our being together and it expresses that we are Americans no matter what complexion or religion we may be.”
A musical performance in Raag Bilawal was performed by Jagjit Singh Matharoo and his team. A group of youngsters from Guru Angad Institute and United Sikhs in Sterling, VA, sang a hymn in Gurbani Sangeet led by Preetinder Singh.
Later, youth of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and Sikh Kid 2 Kid recited a poem highlighting the message of Guru Nanak.
The program ended with a closing address by Aditi Hardikar, Associate Director of Public Engagement at the White House followed by a reception.