Several officials of the White House and US lawmakers celebrated Diwali with the Indian expats in Capitol Hill on Wednesday (local time).
"There has been a lot of darkness in the last 1.5 years. To be able to celebrate and talk about the meaning of Diwali, it's incredibly important," said Vice Admiral Surgeon Gen Vivek Murthy.
The annual reception was hosted by Indiaspora that also honoured some of the top Indian Americans in the Biden administration including Vice Admiral Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Neera Tanden, Senior Advisor and Staff Secretary to President Joe Biden.
"Diwali is about light overcoming darkness, and there has been a lot of darkness in the last year and a half. To be able to celebrate Diwali, to talk about the meaning, to talk about the light in oneself and the light in others in these tough times, means a lot and I'm grateful to be here," the Surgeon General told news agency ANI.
"But one of the things that concern me most about the last few years is another type of pandemic, the invisible pandemic that we are in the midst of. That's a pandemic of polarisation where it feels increasingly people have turned against each other, where they have demonised one another, called each other evil and treated each other as so. That's a particular kind of darkness," he said.
The program included the traditional Diwali 'diya' lighting and remarks from several elected and appointed leaders in federal government and lawmakers. Congressman Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Congressman Ro Khanna, and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi also addressed the gathering and greeted the community.
The event also witnessed an interfaith prayer service that was attended by members of Congress.
Congressman James Clyburn, Steve Chabot, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney praised the contribution of Indian Americans in the development of the US and stressed the significance of Diwali in a post-Covid-19 world.
"The Congressmen at the gathering are not just Indian Americans, we have African American, Chinese American, mainstream American Congressman. It's historic that such a diverse group of congressmen are supporting us," MR Rangaswami, founder, Indiaspora told ANI.
"We are honoured to celebrate Diwali at Capitol Hill and share our traditions with the leaders who have dedicated themselves to serving the public. The Indian diaspora has had a profound impact on American society, and their diverse contributions continue to strengthen our nation," said Sanjeev Joshipura, executive director of Indiaspora.
American actress and singer Mary Millben was also present to celebrate Diwali at Capitol Hill. The singer performed the 'Om Jai Jagdish Hare' rendition for the expats and community members too crooned the hymn with the singer.
"To see folks come all over the country to celebrate Diwali is so beautiful and meaningful to me. I have a strong relationship with the people of India. It's a very full-circle moment for me to be with people whom I love and a culture that I love, I am delighted to be here," Mary Millben told ANI.