Obama lights first-ever diya at Oval Office on Diwali


President Barack Obama lights a lamp at the Oval Office in the White House
President Barack Obama lights a lamp at the Oval Office in the White House

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama celebrated Diwali by lighting the first ever diya in the Oval Office of the White House as he expressed his hope that his successors would continue the tradition.

Obama, the first president to celebrate Diwali at the White House in 2009, spoke about celebrating the Hindi festival of lights in a Facebook post soon after he lit the diya in his Oval Office with some Indian-Americans 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 yesterday (October 30).

“This year, I was honored 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.

“On behalf of the entire Obama family, I wish you and your loved ones peace and happiness on this Diwali,” the president said.

“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,” he added.

“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 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.

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.

Republican rival Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump celebrated Diwali at a Hindu temple in Virginia last week.

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 neighbors 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.

“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.