Political Leaders in DC welcome Sikhs at the Capitol Hill
Sikh Council on Religion and Education
For Immediate Release
Political Leaders in Washington welcome Sikhs at the Capitol Hill
Washington, May 17, 2006 - ‘Dhanvaad’ meaning thanks and Sikh spiritual calling of ‘Bole So Nihaal’ were the words spoken by members of Congress while welcoming the largest gathering of the Sikhs at the U.S. Capital. This was the 3rd annual Sikh American Heritage Dinner and The Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), based in Washington, organized this event.
Several prominent political leaders came to welcome 225 Sikhs from all over the U.S. who had gathered at the Capitol Hill to intermingle with their representatives and to bring their concerns to the lawmakers of the land. Leaders of America exhorted Sikhs to continue to create their presence at the highest political levels to deal with issues facing Sikhs which arose out of the 9/11 tragedy. Support for Indo-US Nuclear deal was mentioned several times by lawmakers and issue of Sikhs to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and religious restrictions on Sikh children in French Schools came up as well.
Senator John Cornyn speaking at the Sikh Dinner event
Republican Senator John Cornyn from Texas, a prominent Senator and the Chairman of the India Caucus said, “I am honored to be part of the Sikh American Heritage Dinner gathering today. I want to thank you for your strong commitment to this nation.”
Republican Senator from Texas being honored by Kamaljit Singh Janda of Ohio
Sikh men and women from many different parts of United States came dressed very elegantly in colorful turbans and Punjabi dresses for this gala event.
Some of the Sikh attendees from all over the United States at the event
The event started with a prayer by the Chaplain of the U.S. Congress, Reverend Daniel Coughlin, who in his prayer asked, “May the peace, and Poetry and virtue of the Sikh living strengthen this land.” He leads members of U.S. Congress in prayer in his official capacity.
Rev. Coughlin offering prayers at the Sikh Event
Reverend Dr. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington in his prayers thanked God for “the principled stands of the Sikh community and their devotion to justice and liberty, their passioned commitment for equality and to collaboration.”
“This event will send a very important signal to the lawmakers and political leaders of this country that Sikhs are politically conscious and will comeback every year to participate in the political and social process of this country. We want to remind lawmakers that Sikhs are an important influence in the American political and cultural nerve center,” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of SCORE.
Senator Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Richard Durbin, Rick Santorum sent their greetings to the Sikh attendees.
Congressman Tom Davis, Chair, National Republican Congressional Committee, 1999-present, said, “I am honored to be part of this great celebration. I am also privileged that I represent so many Sikhs from Northern Virginia. You have unique qualities. The strength of your community is the strong minded compassion for others. You thrive in business. Your fundamental value of family is your greatest strength and that is something this country needs for generations to come. He ended his comments by saying, ‘Dhanvaad’ and Bole so Nihaal - a Sikh spiritual call which was answered by all the Sikhs saying ‘Sat sri Akaal.’
Congressman Tom Davis being honored by Paramjit Singh Bedi, Sukhdev Singh Darhele and Surjit Singh Sidhu
from Sikh Foundation of Virginia
Ranking Republican Congressman Ed Royce from Southern California, a member of House Committee on International Relations, declared, “The future is very bright for your community here because your children have the highest percent of advanced degrees in U.S. It is not that you work for your children that you also contribute to rest of the U.S.” He lauded the Sikhs playing a leadership role in highest positions in India and he especially mentioned Prime Ministed Manmohan Singh for his drive to make India an economic success.
Dr Kanwarjit Singh Bedi from Cleveland honoring Congressman Ed Royce, Dr Rajwant Singh in middle.
Congressman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey who is also the founder of the India Caucus, told the Sikhs that, “It is very important you all have come here and it is very critical that we have to be seen here (at the Capitol Hill). It is also important to meet your Congressman and Senators to tell them about your concerns. He said that he uses every opportunity to support and push for the Indo – US Nuclear deal.
Dr Kirpal Kaur of Baltimore honoring Congressman Frank Pallone
Appreciating the presence of the Interfaith leaders at the dinner, Congressman Frank Pallone said that, “One of hallmarks of your faith is reaching out to others and bringing people together. You are viewed universally holding those values.
Prominent Congressman Brad Sherman Malibu, California, and a Democratic ranking member of the House subcommittee on Asia and Pacific, said, “I have been the chief advocate against the restrictions placed on Sikh children in France. It is wrong here and everywhere and it is certainly wrong in France. I also the co-sponsor of the hate crimes law in this country and no body should face any difficulty on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. I had visited the Sikh temple in Los Angeles two days after the attack of 9/11 and that was to send this signal that we as a nation need to come together.
Congresman Brad Sherman being honored by Dr. Piara Singh and Sarabjit Singh from Los Angeles. Dr. Rajwant Singh and Dr. Marwah also being honored on the left
While lauding Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, first Asian and the only Sikh elected as member of U.S. Congress in the 60’s, Congressman Joe Crowley from New York said,
“Sikhs have amazing tradition. We cannot forget that almost fifty years ago this glass ceiling was broken by Congressman Saund and the people of Southern California who put their trust in him to represent them in the United States Congress. Another Sikh who has not received the same acclaim as Congressman Singh but deserves just as much is the 21 year-old Uday Singh, a young Sikh man who was killed fighting for his adopted country, the United States, in Iraq. Brave men and women like Uday Singh should be recognized for their willingness to fight for our country.” He also recognized Kahan Singh Dhillon to become the youngest President of the Chamber of Commerce.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County in Maryland, said, “Sikh community is an essential part of the diverse community in the area. Your contribution in culture, education and input on global politics adds to the dynamic of the wider community. The challenges after 9/11 have reminded us that we hold ourselves true to the founding principles which should include everyone. I am the supporter of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act which asks employers to offer reasonable accommodations to their workers for their religious practices which would be helpful to many Sikhs. I truly appreciate that Sikhs played role in helping Americans togethers after 9/11 and to make this country a stronger and better place for everyone. We have to make sure that in this country there are no restrictions on the religious expression like in France.”
Congressman Chris Van Hollen being honored by Dr. Savinder Kaur Julka, Prabhjot Singh Kohli and Dr. Rajinder Singh Sidhu. Dr. Rajwant Singh and Kavelle K. Bajaj at left
Dr. Amarjit Singh Marwah, 80, a dentist and a known philanthropist, was given the Life Time Achievement Award by Congressman Sherman on behalf of the Sikh Council. Congressman Sherman added, “I am been friend of Dr Amarjit Singh Marwah from last ten years and he has been a mentor to many including myself.” In addition, Satinder Singh Rekhi, the CEO of a large multinational company based in California was given the award of ‘Leadership in Entrepreneurship.’
Kavelle K. Bajaj, a successful business women who rained a company sold for quarter billion, was given the award ‘Sikh Women leader in Business’ by Congressman Chris Van Hollen.
Akal Security was honored with an award highlighting their contribution in creating a respectable name for Sikhs and providing security to millions of Americans and Daya Singh, Executive Vice President received the Award.
Pritam Singh Chahil, 96 year old scholar was given the award ‘Contribution to Sikh Religion and Literature’ for the monumental task of translating Sikh Scriptures in English.
Movie maker Kavi Raj was given the award for making a movie on a Sikh family in the post 9/11 America.
Aziz Haniffa, Managing Editor of India Abroad was honored for ‘Excellence in Journalism’ and for helping creating awareness about Sikhs.
Preet Mohan Singh, an official of Interfaith Alliance for honored for his role in ‘Leadership in Social Activism and outreach Efforts’ on behalf of the Sikhs after 9/11.
Dr Rajinder Singh Sidhu, a prominent physician in Maryland and Board member of the Guru Nanak Foundation of America, said, “This event is was extremely successful and I appreciate being asked to be involved in it. Prayers are with the organizers to continue to further the cause of Sikhs and Sikhism and I whole heartedly support this cause.”
Dr. Piara Singh, an official of the Vermont Gurdwara in Los Angeles, said, “The biggest joy of the evening was not the numerous Congressional leaders who spoke, or the honorees that have done much for America, but the fact that such an event took place at the U.S. Capitol Hill intertwined with a mutual understanding of respect towards Americans who are adherents to the Sikh faith.”
Sikhs from New Mexico and Herndon at the Event. Bibi Inderjit Kaur in the middle
Dr. Paramjit Singh Aujla a prominent physician in DC area, said, “ I am glad that my son is present here and I wanted him to get exposed to this event giving him the sense of pride.”
Chattar Singh Saini, President of the National Sikh center and one of early pioneers in DC area, said, “With numerous Congressmen becoming familiar with the term “Sat Siri Akaal” it really warmed my heart to know that they accepted us who we are, even in America.”
Cleveland Sikhs with Dr. Marwah and Gurbax Singh Bhasin in the middle
Sartaj Singh Dhami, Outreach Director of SCORE said. “Again, SCORE has recognized the top Sikh American talent that has aided to benefit our Country for the best. Whether it be through Kavi Raz’s film “The Gold Bracelet,” or the protection that Akal Security provides our Homeland, Sikhs are honoring the vision of our early pioneers who migrated in the early 1900s. And it is through events like the Capitol Hill Dinner that help Sikhs to become accepted within America’s moral fabric with their distinctive identities.
Everything was put into perspective when Congressional leaders reinforced the point that only in America immigrants can come to this country and truly feel proud of their new adopted land. As a Sikh American, it reassured me that indeed I am an American and proud that my ancestors chose to migrate to our country.”
Dr. Harminder Kaur Mangat of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, said, “Who would imagine that over 200 Sikh Americans could gather on the grounds of Capitol Hill to eat dinner, hear from their Congressman or Senator, and enjoy and recognize the contribution of Sikhs to our Nation. Truly, it is an event that needs to continue year after year.”
“It was great company, great event to build bridges with policy makers, and great way to create Sikh presence in DC on an annual basis" said Azaadjeet Singh Khaira, Chief Spokesperson, Guru Gobind Singh Gurudwara of Greater Cleveland, Ohio.
“The Sikh American Heritage dinner reception at Capitol Hill truly underscored the mission of SCORE by representing Sikh viewpoints in public forum and recognizing and honoring achievements of individuals from Sikh and non-Sikh communities.” said Gurmeet Singh Patheja, a prominent businessman from Philadelphia.
Congressman Van Hollen with Bakshish Singh Saini, Chattar Singh Saini and Chanchal Singh of Indian Palace who provided the delicious Indian Meal
Prabjot Singh Kohli, President of Sikh Association of Baltimore said, “It was an august gathering of important Sikhs and Congressmen besides the people representing various organisations - both governmental and non-governmental. It gave me an impression that we have come of age and are now part of the mosaic i.e. America.”
Kartar Singh Khalsa, the leader of the Raj Khalsa Gurdwara in Herndon, Virginia, said, “It was an honor to have our national Sikh family represented in a Senate hearing room, honoring those who have built our presence in this country. It is a very good thing to show our local Congressmen the presence we have nationally and the friendships we have with other members of Congress across the country."
Ragi Jatha of Bhai Baljit Singh rendered a Sikh prayer at the event
Parminder Singh Ahuja, Trustee of Guru Nanak Foundation of America and a prominent Accountant in D.C. Area, said, “The event was wonderful; the dinner was great; but most of all the honor that was bestowed upon the Sikh Americans who have made such a difference in representing Sikhs in the United States was incredible. It not too often that people are recognized for their good deeds to the community. We need more events like these to make the Sikh Community aware what other Sikhs are doing for the Sikh cause. I personally was not aware of the many contributions these people have made. This event has been an eye opener for me.
Additionally, meeting and talking to the several congressmen and senators was an added pleasure. I truly enjoyed seeing them and having a political discussion with them. We as Sikhs really need to get involved in the political arena. We need to make sure they, the politicians, know who we are and what we can do for the American society as a whole.”
Dalpreet Singh Saluja, who recently graduated from Law School said, “The Sikh American Heritage Dinner is an invaluable event bringing Sikhs and the leading US political figures together in one room and creating a dialogue between these parties to further Sikh understanding and appreciation. Without a doubt, to obtain understanding from the larger community, you have to start from the source: their representatives. This event does just that. Furthermore, recognizing those individuals who have given their time and energy promoting an understanding of the Sikhs to our surrounding communities provides encouragement to these individuals to continue their efforts and to others to follow in their footsteps. Dr. Rajwant Singh is doing great things through this event, and I hope to see it continue for a long time.”
This year SCORE was able to secure the endorsement and support from some of the most powerful players in the American political scene. Honorary committee for this Dinner included Senator Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Richard Durbin and on the Republican side Senator Rick Santorum and Senator John Cornyn. On the House side includes Congressmen Tom Davis and Joe Wilson, and Jim McDormatt, Van Hollen from the Democratic side.
The other members of the SCORE team, which presented this program, were, Preet Amrit Kaur, Parambir Singh Gill, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Singh, Daman Kaur, Ramandeep Singh, and Harjot Singh. Sirmukh Singh Manku and Sunny Singh Manku filmed the entire event to make it available to Nationwide audience.
SCORE Team members: Sartaj Singh Dhami, Satnam Singh and Harjot Singh playing dhol
Sikhs came from Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Indianapolis, New Mexico, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Boston, New York, and the state of New Jersey, Mary Land, Virginia and Washington, DC.
Sikhs from Philadelphia, Maryland and Los Angeles
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