Washington: US President Donald Trump celebrated Diwali at the White House by lighting a diya amid a gathering of leading members of the Indian American community and said he greatly valued his relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka also attended the festivities in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Also present were Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley and Administrator of the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma.
Trump gave an effusive speech recognizing the US ties with India and the contributions of the Indian American community.
“Today, I was deeply honoured to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community — to celebrate Diwali — the Hindu Festival of Lights,” he said in a message posted on his Facebook page.
“As we do so, we especially remember the people of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy.
“I greatly value my very strong relationship with Prime Minister Modi. Diwali is one of the most important celebrations in the Hindu religion,” said Trump.
“A time of peace and prosperity for the New Year, it is a tradition that is held dear by more than 1 billion Hindus worldwide and more than 2 million Hindus in the US. It is also celebrated by millions of Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in America, India and around the world.
“Our Indian-American neighbours and friends have made incredible contributions to our country – and to the world. You have made extraordinary contributions to art, science, medicine, business and education.
“America is especially thankful for its many Indian-American citizens who serve BRAVELY in our armed forces and as first responders in communities throughout our great land,” Trump said on Facebook.
The US President then explained why diya, or earthen lamp, is lit during Diwali.
“The lighting of the diya is typically celebrated by families in their homes. Today, we proudly celebrate this holiday in THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE.
“In so doing, we reaffirm that Indian-Americans and Hindu-Americans are truly cherished, treasured and beloved members of our great American FAMILY.
“We wish all of America’s Hindus and everyone who celebrates Diwali a joyous holiday and blessings of light, goodness, and prosperity throughout the New Year. And now we will light the diya,” the President said.
A video of the White House celebration and Trump’s message was posted to the President’s Facebook page.