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Sikh Heritage Dinner Event in Washington again draws applause from American Lawmakers

07/05/2007

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    Washington, June 30, 2007 - Heavy thunderstorms and major political battles at the Capitol Hill did not prevent 250 Sikhs and many lawmakers to attend the 4th annual Sikh American Heritage Dinner reception at the Capitol Hill on June 12, 2007. Many Congress Representatives and Senators, who dropped by in between the votes on major issues, attended the dinner and praised the role of the Sikhs in America. Among the lawmakers who spoke at the dinner were: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Congressman George Radonovich, Congressman Jim Costa, Congresswoman Diane Watson, Congressman Mike Honda, Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky, and Congressman Joe Crowley. Sikhs came from all over America to create their presence.


    some of the attendees at the Sikh American Heritage Dinner at the Capitol Hill this year

    Senator Richard Lugar and Congressman John Lewis were honored for their contributions in the field of Civil rights for all Americans and also creating a harmonious atmosphere in the nation. In honoring Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, SCORE Chairman Rajwant Singh praised Lugar’s contributions over the years as a Member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committee, especially his role in reducing the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to the world.


    Senator Richard Lugar receiving Bhagat Singh Thind Award from Isher Singh Bindra, from left to right Mohinder Singh Taneja, Teji Bindra, Dr. Darshan Singh Saluja, Sarabjit Singh Bakshi and Dr. Rajwant Singh

    The other congressional honoree, Congressman John Lewis, a giant in the political scene in America, has been a stalwart for the struggle for civil rights. He was the companion of Martin Luther King and was jailed many times in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, the Congressman Lewis had to attend a funeral in New York, and his Award was received on his behalf by Congressman Mike Honda of California.


    Some of the political leaders at the Sikh event. From left;Senator Lugar, Congresswomen Diane Watson and her assistant, Balwinder Singh from Chicago and Congresswomen Schakowsky

    “This event sends a very important signal to the lawmakers and political leaders of this country that Sikhs are politically conscious and would like to participate in the political and social process of this country.” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), who has been organizing this event at the Hill. This event was co-sponsored by the Sikh Caucus.

    This event by SCORE is not only to project the Sikh culture but also to educate and to reach out to others. I have deep appreciation for the Sikh community for not only adding tremendously to the society in Queens, NY but throughout this nation, said Congressman Crowley from NY.

    Among the Sikh honorees, Sant Singh Chatwal, prominent entrepreneur and who is a visibly and politically active Sikh American among the Indians in America was given the ‘Outstanding Community Leadership Award’. Isher Singh Bindra, prominent businessman and philanthropist was given the ‘Life Time Achievment Award’ for his contributions in Sikh studies as well as for humanitarian causes. In addition, Dr. Anmol Singh Mahal, President of the California Medical Board was honored. Sant Chatwal has worked very closely with President Clinton and Senior Bush to collect funds for Tsunami and Katrina victims and is also on the board of the Clinton Foundation. Bindra has recently started a $50,000 yearly award for interfaith work and Mahal is elected president of the 35,000 member California Medical Board and has recently been honored by the California Assembly and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gurmustuk Singh of SikhNET.com, Valerie Kaur and Sharat Raju, makers of the documentary 'Divided We Fall', Ish Amitoj Kaur, maker of movie 'Kamdi Kalai', Virginia Tech Sikh Student leaders, were also honored for their contributions.


    Rev. Coughlin receiving book on Sikhism from Bibi Inderjit Kaur from NM,
    the wife of late Harbhajan Singh Yogi

    The program started with an Opening prayer by Chaplain Daniel P. Coughlin, Chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives and a Sikh hymn by Raagi Gulbagh Singh and Raagi Devinder Singh, the famous hymn singers.

    In Introducing Congressman Lewis to the audience, Professor Amritjit Singh, a distinguished professor of English and African American Studies at Ohio University, described Lewis as one of his heroes. He noted how in 1963, when he was only 23, Lewis was elected Chair of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and became one of the six top Civil Rights leaders in the country. He reminded the audience that because of the sacrifices made by Civil Rights leaders like Lewis, all of us today have fuller citizenship rights.


    Congressman Honda receiving an award on behalf of Congressman John Lewis from Dr. Amritjit Singh of OH

    In receiving the award on behalf of Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Mike Honda told the audience how John Lewis reminds people that sometimes they have to be “in the way.” Honda noted how Asian Americans are sometimes too passive and polite and Lewis would want to them to get more engaged with their own voices and their own issues. At the dinner on June 12, many speakers (including California Congressman Mike Honda) stressed the need for Sikhs and all Asian Americans to participate actively in democratic institutions at local and national levels. Without such participation, Honda warned we would allow others to speak for ourselves and make laws affecting our lives and futures.

    “SCORE’s Sikh American Heritage Dinner Reception,” observed Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor at Ohio University, who attended the event for the first time, “is a major annual event to cement the community’s relationship to the nation’s political leadership.” Amritjit praised the bonhomie and sense of community generated by the event and was grateful for the opportunity to meet Sikh activists and professionals from several states, especially CA, OH, and NY.


    Gurmustuk Singh of SikhNet.com receiving an award from Kamaljit Singh Janda, Lakhwinder Singh Sodhi, Prabhjot Singh Kohli, Kamaljit Singh Soni and Dr. Rajwant Singh are also seen.

    “The annual SCORE American Heritage Dinner proved once again to be a big draw for the Sikh American community. It is truly nice to see Congressional Leadership reassure us that the Sikhs are an integral part of this Nation,” said Lakhwinder Singh Sodhi from Phoenix, Arizona.

    "I was honored to be a part of the June 12th dinner at the Capitol Building hosted by SCORE. It was a great feeling to know that we were able to attract such a large group of congressman and senators who were all very interested in causes of the Sikh community. This is a great step toward further recognition of Sikhs and their contribution to this country. At the dinner, I felt a great sense of pride being a Sikh." Dr. Daljit Singh Saluja, a prominent Physician from Baltimore.

    Various Sikh Medical doctors, Dentists and Vets honoring Dr. Anmol Singh Mahal

    "The Annual Sikh Heritage Dinner by SCORE is an essential and critical event for Sikh Americans to make an impact on Capitol Hill. This year the event was bigger, better and well attended by US policymakers. I pray for an even more impact full event in 2008," said Prof. Azaadjeet Singh Khaira, Executive Director of American Sikh Council, Cleveland, Ohio.

    "This is an august meeting of the elite of the Sikhs from all over the USA, Important personalities, irrespective of their political and social affiliations, get together to discuss the issues pertaining to Indians in general and Sikhs in particular with the Congressmen. They show their determination in political involvement and honor the Congressmen, who show greatest interest in resolving the Sikh Issues. They also honor the prominent Sikh leaders who have contributed most to enrich Sikh religion, culture and the integration with the mainstream American. A list of all the honorees in past and this year reflects a "WHO IS WHO" of the Sikh Diaspora," said Prabhjot S. Kohli, ex-president and now a Trustee of the Sikh Association of Baltimore.


    ‘This year's Dinner reminds the young Sikhs growing up in America that we have a commitment to help flourish the presence of the Sikh community by integrating ourselves into the American society. As Sikhs, we must start to participate in activities outside of our Gurudwaras whether it is in our local communities or on the Federal level,” said, Sartaj Singh Dhami, the MC for the event.

    “I am very impressed with the work of SCORE. Not only they thanked and honored the politicians who helped further the cause of Sikhs in this country they also did the same to the chosen Sikhs who did the same. I can very well say about myself and the Sikh Sangat Of Houston that SCORE will always have our support,” Said Harjit Singh Galotra from Houston, TX.

    Various attendees at the event

    Dr. Hardam Singh Azad from Houston, Tx, added, “I look forward to attending this event next year, as I'm truly impressed with the momentum that is starting to build towards Sikh activism in the American Political System.”
    "The evening brought together Sikhs from all across our Nation to the Capitol Hill. I felt that in a way, our own people are starting to organize politically like many other American minority ethnic groups." said, Mohinder Singh Taneja, NY Director of SCORE.

    Dr. Darshan Singh Sehbi, Dayton representative of SCORE, "This certainly creates a very positive environment for our future generations. We have no choice but to continue on this path of reaching out to our elected representatives.


    Sharat Raju and Valerie Kaur being awarded. From left to right: Lakhwinder Singh Sodhi, Sharat Raju, Manpreet Singh, Valerie Kaur, Congressman Honda and Kartar Singh

    "It takes a lot of courage and dedication to perceive and successfully accomplish the task of getting your community on an international level. It is when we come out of our individual cocoons and take up the cudgels to interact with the outside world that we can bring about a difference to our own people. I must congratulate the whole team of SCORE on having accomplished this in such a tastefully organized event." Said IshAmitoj Kaur, one of the honorees of the evening.


    Sartaj Singh Dhami, Bhai Gurdarshan Singh, Gurmustuk Singh and Sunny Singh Manku

    Amrit Kaur, Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation a high profile Sikh institution based in suburban Maryland said,” It was a magnificent program where we could honor our own who have not only achieved distinction in their respective careers in various fields in America as Sikhs but also have contributed to the productivity and betterment of the society as a whole. They have demonstrated that being a Sikh and a successful American is not exclusive term but intertwined. The other great significance was the presence of so many law makers of US who acknowledged the presence and contribution of Sikhs in their own states and vowed to work for safeguarding the rights of minorities and keeping unity in diversity which is the strength of America’

    Attendees from OH, NY, MD and VA

    The core committee members which helped put together this program were: Manpreet Singh, MP Singh Matharoo, Ramandeep Singh, Preet Amrit Kaur, Sartaj Singh Dhami and Prabhjot Singh Kohli, Dalpreet Singh Saluja, Mohinder Singh Taneja, Ravinder Kaur Malhi, Sarabjit Singh Bakshi, and Harry Gill helped in the organization as well. Bhangra performance was by the George Washington University Team.


    Meenu Kaur, IshAmitoj Kaur, Gurmustuk Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Dr. Harminder Mangat, Sabrina Kaur, Sehejneet Kaur, Soni Kaur

    SCORE based in Washington, has been consistently and representing the interests of the Sikhs on a variety of issues. SCORE seeks to promote the positive role of the Sikhs in America and have the Sikhs recognized as a strong and distinctive pillar of American society.
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