White House Celebrate Guru Nanak Birth Anniversary
White House Celebrates Guru Nanak Birth Anniversary By FROM NEWS DISPATCHES
November 19, 2009 02:34:00 PM
Senior officials at the White House greeted nearly 125 Sikh men and women at the entrance to the White House complex Nov. 13 to celebrate Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary for the first time in the White House.
“This is your White House and this first event is just the beginning and it will be part of many gatherings of your community here,” Christina M. Tchen, head of the White House Office of Public Engagement, told the gathering, according to a press release. “We want you to stay in contact with us.”
The program, which began at 3:15 p.m., started with a Sikh prayer by Sarabjit Singh, Granthi of the New York Gurudwara in Glen Cove in Long Island. Singh offered prayers for President Barack Obama and his administration in addition to prayers for the well-being of entire humanity.
A traditional Kirtan with harmonium and tabla was performed by Ragi Nirmal Singh Nagpuri together with Sukhjeevan Singh of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. They were accompanied by talented tabla player Sucha Singh of Jalandhar.
In addition, two American Sikhs, Guru Sangat Singh and Gursangat Kaur, sang a song of Guru Nanak in English which was accompanied by the guitar. Speeches by senior officials of President Obama’s administration were interspersed by a series of “Bole So Nihal” and thunderous response of "Sat Sri Akal."
Paul Monteiro, Obama’s religious representative, said, “It is truly a privilege to host this event, and it is a special day for the White House to mark this significant occasion for the Sikh community. We welcome you to be involved in everything that the president is involved.”
Dr. Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education who had organized this first Sikh event in collaboration with the White House, said, “It is a great day for the Sikhs in the United States and for the entire community worldwide to see that the most important day of our lives is being celebrated at the invitation of President Barack Obama.
“This event is a tribute to all the pioneers of the Sikh community who worked hard to lay the foundation of our community in America. It is a great accomplishment for the entire Sikh community. We are thankful to the president and his administration for opening their hearts and the doors of the White House for Sikhs.
“We have been in America for over 100 years and this definitely sends a strong signal that this White House recognizes the Sikh presence in the U.S."
He then added, “This is a historical day for the entire community in America and my personal dream come true.”
Among the officials who spoke at the event included Chris Lu, cabinet secretary for President Obama; Kalpen Modi, associate director of the public engagement office; John P. Holdren, Obama's top science adviser; and officials from the Justice Department working on discrimination cases related to Sikhs in United States, said the release.
Among those who attended the event were Bibi Inderjit Kaur, wife of the late Harbhajan Singh Yogi, from Espanola, New Mexico; and Rana Singh Sodhi from Phoenix, Arizona, whose brother Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed after 9/11 in a hate crime.