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How Obama, Hillary, Trump, and the UN celebrated diwali this year

Think Change India
1st Nov 2016
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This year, Diwali fever reached the US in a big way, where a burgeoning community of over three million Indians lives. The festival of lights was embraced by everyone, from President Obama to the Democratic Party Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. While no such wishes came from the Republican candidate Donald Trump, his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, celebrated the festival of lights in a temple.

The United Nations (UN) headquarters, situated in Manhattan, New York, also celebrated Diwali for the very first time this year. Diwali wishes flashed on the iconic UN building, as tourists and Indian Americans living in the area found themselves pleasantly surprised by the wonderful gesture.

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Obama lights diya in the Oval Office for the first time

Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting a diya in the Oval Office of the White House for the first time. He also hoped that his successors would continue the tradition.

Obama, who was the first president to celebrate Diwali personally at the White House in 2009, talked about this momentous occasion in a Facebook post soon after he kindled the diya in his Oval Office with some Indian-Americans working in his administration.

"I was proud to be the first President to host a Diwali celebration at the White House in 2009, and Michelle and I will never forget how the people of India welcomed us with open arms and hearts and danced with us in Mumbai on Diwali," Obama said.

"This year, I was honoured to kindle the first-ever diya in the Oval Office  a lamp that symbolises how darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future Presidents will continue," Obama said on the White House Facebook page, which became viral on social media. By late night it was liked by more than 1.5 lakh people and shared more than 33,000 times, reports PTI.

"To all who are celebrating the festival of lights across America and around the world, happy Diwali. As Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists light the diya, share in prayers, decorate their homes, and open their doors to host and feast with loved ones, we recognise that this holiday rejoices in the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance," said the US President.

"It also speaks to a broader truth about our shared American experience. It's a reminder of what's possible when we see beyond the differences that too often divide us. It's a reflection of the hopes and dreams that bind us together," he said. Obama said that it is a time to renew collective obligation to deepen those bonds, to stand in each other's shoes and see the world through each other's eyes, and to embrace each other as brothers and sisters  and as fellow Americans.

Hillary calls for light to prevail over darkness

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has a large fan following in the Indian-American community, greeted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains across the world on the occasion of Diwali. "On Sunday, nearly a billion Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists around the world  including more than two million Americans  will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. For members of these faiths, lighting the lamp (the diya) is a reminder that light prevails over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil," Clinton said.

"Here in the United States, it is a tribute to the Indian American community that Diwali is celebrated with such beauty and joy. Regardless of our personal faith, Diwali reminds us that diversity is one of our greatest strengths as a nation, that light prevails over darkness, and that dharma  righteousness or goodness  must guide us toward a better tomorrow," Clinton said.

"If I have the honour of serving as president, I will be committed to building an administration that reflects such diversity, including continuing White House celebrations of Diwali," she said. "To those of you celebrating this joyous occasion, I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Diwali and Saal Mubarak," Clinton said in a statement.

No Diwali wishes from Trump

There was no such statement from her Republican rival Donald Trump, whose daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, had celebrated Diwali at a Hindu temple in Virginia last week, reports PTI.

In a joint statement, the Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-chair Sharon Day said as Republicans, they continue to support religious freedom across the country so that all Americans can continue to share these great traditions with the communities.

"Diwali marks a special time as our friends and neighbours of Hindu, Jain, and Sikh faiths celebrate this year's Festival of Lights," said Chairman Priebus. "During this celebration, we are not only reminded of the traditions that many immigrants bring that make our country more strong and more diverse but also of the many blessings we have in our daily lives," he added.

"From the music to the feasts, to the remembrance of Bandi Chhor Divas, a Sikh festival celebrating emancipation from religious persecution, Diwali also serves as a time for families to contemplate the past year, and what they look forward to in the future," the joint statement said.

UN celebrates Diwali for the first time

For the first time, the UN building lit up to celebrate the festival of lights. The iconic building, situated in Manhattan, New York, had 'Happy Diwali' prominently written on it, with a diya below it.

India's Envoy to the Permanent Mission to UN Syed Akbaruddin, told India Today, "Diwali symbolises the triumph of good over evil. UN is a force for good globally. We are thankful to the President of General Assembly Peter Thompson of Fiji who understands the relevance of Diwali in a multicultural environment and society."

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