December 14, 2012 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Washington DC, USA (December 11, 2012): Birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was celebrated by the White House in the presence of 160 Sikhs from across the United States.
Senior officials from the Obama Administration turned up to welcome Sikhs who were dressed proudly in their traditional Punjabi attires, colorful turbans and business suites.
Paul Monteiro, Associate Director at the Office of Public Engagement, welcomed all the attendees with Sikh greeting, “Waheguru ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh! This was received enthusiastically from a room packed with Sikh representatives.
He further stated, “The White House welcomes the Sikh community and this is our third celebration during President Obama’s presidency and we will continue on this path.”
Gautam Raghavan also from the White House Public Engagement office, said, “This seems like a family event for all of us.” All of the speakers especially acknowledged the presence of the families of victims of Oak Creek Gurdwara who were invited to be part of the event.
The program started with an opening prayer by Amarpreet Kaur Everest, a young girl from a pioneer family of Yuba City, California. She ended the prayer with a Sikh calling, Bole So Nihal with a thunderous response from all the Sikhs, ‘Sat Sri Akaal.’
Joshua DuBois, Head of the White House’s Faith Based Initiative and who counsel Obama on spiritual matters, said, “There is not any week which goes by when we do not think about the Sikh community.
Just as we focused on Sikhs weeks immediately after the Wisconsin tragedy. I want to assure you on behalf of President Obama that we have deep commitment for the families of all those were affected.” He further stated, “We are so proud of our great relationship with the Sikh community on Job training and environmental issues and we will continue to expand our relationship.”
This was followed by a hymn celebrating the advent of Guru Nanak by famous Kirtan singer from Punjab, Bhai Niranjan Singh who was accompanied by Tabla Maestro Sucha Singh of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Maryland. He sang ’Mitee Dhund Jag Chanan hoya, Satgur Nanak pargatiya’.
The walls of the Old Executive office building of the White House were reverberating with the melodious voices of kirtan. Niranjan Singh sang two other hymns written by Guru Nanak in the Sikh scriptures, Guru Granth Sahib.
In addition, a talented 20 year Sikh young man, Raginder Singh from California, presented a musical number on violin in raag Bhairavi.
Grande Lum, Director of the Community Relations at the Justice Department, declared, “We are proud of what we have been doing with the Sikh community in the last ten years. I have spent more time on the issues of the Sikhs than any other issue. Guru Nanak ji stood for equality and justice and that is what our department stands for.”
Paul Monteiro further stated that “Due to the immense tragedy of Oak Creek Gurdwara, a lot of focus of today’s event is civil rights but we are continuously working on many comprehensive issues.
He asked how many of the attendees were Medical professionals and how many were from the field of IT or education. We want your participation and we would like you to spread the word all around the nation and Sikhs should apply to serve the nation through the federal government as White House is seeking new applicants.”
Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, who played a key role in organizing the event at the White House, said, “This is a proud moment for the entire community to celebrate this great occasion at the White House especially in light of the tragedy of Oak Creek and also while we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of our first gurdwara in America.
Sikhs ought to be involved in all fields and all areas of the American society.” He challenged that Sikhs must resolve to elect a Sikh with full identity to US Congress in the next twenty five years which was received with a resounding Jaikara, a Sikh calling.
A book on Golden Temple was presented to the Obama representative for the US President.
Amardeep Singh, who serves on the White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and an official of Sikh Coalition, thanked Obama Administration for their support to the community.
He stated, “This administration has provided us an unprecedented access in the aftermath of Oak Creek tragedy.”
Pavneet Singh, an official at the National Security Council at the White House, said, “I am extremely proud to see this large presence. It is important that we acknowledge that we are not single issue people and we are not only Sikhs but we are involved in everything. We not just Sikhs in America but we are so much capable and active participant in the every sphere of this nation.”
Others who addressed the audience were: Congressman Jerry McNerny from Stockton, California, Mazen Basrawi, Eric Treene (Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination) and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Prez.
Representatives of various Sikh organizations also spoke and among them were: Sapreet Kaur of Sikh Coalition, Dr. Seema Kaur of United Sikhs and Jaswant Singh Hothi of the American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
Some of the prominent Sikhs who traveled long distances to be part of this historic celebration were: Sarbjeet Singh Sandhu of San Jose Gurdwara, Rana Sodhi, Dr. Jaswant Singh Sachdev from Phoenix, Kamal Kaur Chahal of Be Proud organization and Harbir Kaur Bhatia from San Francisco, Dr. Harcharan Singh Gill from Wisconsin, Dr. Darshan Singh Sehbi from Ohio, Master Mohinder Singh from NY, Karam Bains from Yuba City, Amarpreet Sawhney from Boston, Dr. Jasbir Singh Bhatia from Florida, Harpreet Singh Sandhu from San Francisco, Chattar Singh Saini from Maryland and Ranjit Singh Kaler from Virginia.
There were five representatives from the deceased/seriously injured victims’s families from Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara. The representatives were Ravinder Kaur, Surinder Kaur, Lokinder Kaur, Raghuvinder Singh (Son of Baba Punjab Singh), and Gurmail Singh (Son of Baba Santokh Singh).
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