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Portrait of Hon. Congressman Dalip Singh Saund Unveiled in the U.S. Capitol


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    Washington, November 12, 2007 - Under the dome of the capitol building, son of Punjab was honored in the Rayburn Room of the US Capitol. The official portrait of the late Dalip Singh Saund, the first Indian-American and also the first Asian-American congressman was unveiled. Nearly 200 Indian-Americans from across the country, including several Sikhs in colorful turbans, along with several US lawmakers packed the room during the unveiling ceremony. Saund was elected to House of Representatives in 1956 from California and represented 29th district in California from 1957 to 1963.

    Portrait of Congressman Saund being unweiled by his grandson
    while Congressman Honda standing at right.

    In addition, Saund’s daughter, Ellie Saund Ford, five grandchildren, including the eldest grandson Eric Saund and several great-grandchildren participated in the ceremony.

    Jon Friedman, a portraitist, landscape painter and sculptor who sketched this official potrait of Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, said that “it a great honor."

    Friedman acknowledged that he had "never heard of Dalip Singh Saund and so I knew nothing about his extraordinary life." He said that in the process he also educated himself about the Indian-American community, the immigrant experience of the Sikhs who came to the US over 100 years ago and the struggle Saund had waged to stave off discrimination. The artist has painted many miniature figures on the side panel to detail the progression of journey of his life. With the Sikh symbol of Khanda, from his farming family in Punjab, young Dr. Saund in turban, Gandhi, Lincoln who had influenced his thinking, Judge Saund for Congress and his distinguished service culminating as a Congressman in the magnificent dome of the Capitol Hill are painted with great finesse.

    Congressman Joe Wilson, Amardeep Singh of Raaj Khalsa Gurdwara in Virginia, Congressman Ed Royce of Los Angeles area and Dr. Rajwant Singh infront of the Saund potrait.

    Hon.Mike Honda, the Congressman from California, who himself is of Japanese origin, was the Master of Ceremonies. He started this historical moment with the Sikh greeting ‘WaheGuru ji ka Khalsa and Wahe Guru ji ki Fateh!, welcomed the audience and introduced members of the Saund family.

    Congressman Jim McDemott, Washington Democrat, and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, who kicked off the celebration, kicked off the celebration by saying Sat Shri Akal and said “We stand before the portrait of a man who stood the test of time and his portrait will inspire people to achieve their dreams. Hon. Saund, a man of humble beginning rose to fame. He nurtured equality and justice. He was a trail blazer and his sense of purpose flowered when he became the Congressman. His power to make the difference regardless of whether you have turban or brown skin was amazing.”

    Congressman Jim McDemott speaking at the occasion

    Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, the Republican co-chair of the India Caucus, had waged a campaign over three years for the placing of Saund's portrait on Capitol Hill, declared, "What a wonderful person he was, what a pioneer, what a great American hero he is."

    He proudly declared that it was not Democratic or Republican move to install the portrait of Hon. Saund. It was a bi- partisan effort. The seed sown by Hon. Saund is showing result today as Bobby Jindal, another son of Punjab, has become Governor of Louisiana. He said that “Hon: Saund made profound difference in the political process of the country. He fought tirelessly for the rights of immigrants. We have come a long way since but we have a long way to go.”

    Eric Saund, the oldest grandson of Hon. Dalip Singh Saund, who has launched a website also for his illustrious grandfather, spoke very eloquently about him.

    Hon. Mike Honda declared that it was a moment when history was made. Hon: Saund was the first Asian to be elected to the House but should not be the last. He implored the Sikhs to continue to educate the wider American public about them. Although Sikhs are in this country for over 100 years and are no strangers but it is recently that issued concerning them have been highlighted. The sacred 5ks of the Sikhs should be recognized, the challenges after 9/11 have to be addressed and onus is on the Sikh community to let Americans know about them selves.

    Closing remarks were paid by Congressman Hon. Robert Brady who underscored many similarities between his life and that of Hon: Saund and concluded that the portrait of Hon: Saund would be a beacon of hope and inspiration for the generations to come.

    Dr. Rajwant Singh and Amrit Kaur with daughter of Congressman Saund and family members.

    Commenting on this grand occasion, Amrit Kaur, Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, said, “This is a moment of pride for all the immigrants in general and for the Sikhs in particular. A son of the soil of Punjab rose to so much imminence and grandeur which is to this day unparallel in history. The portrait of Honorable Dalip Singh Saund will be a fountain head of inspiration and optimism for the future generations to come. Congressman Saund believed in American ideals of equality and justice because his personal moorings were embedded in his Sikh faith which taught him the same values from early childhood.”

    “We thank the U.S. Congress for honoring the true hero of America. This is a great gift to the community. Honor to Mr. Saund is a matter of special pride for Sikh s in the U.S. His life, struggle and success continue to inspire the American Sikh s to work hard to create a place of respect and admiration for their community. He is not only a symbol of hope and inspiration for all South Asians but he is the most loved and remembered leader in California” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Washington based Sikh Council on Religion and Education.

    Speaker Pelosi released a statement which also described it as "truly a historic day. It is my pleasure to welcome to the Capitol of the United States, the People's House, the portrait of the first Asian-American member of Congress, the Honorable Dalip Singh Saund."

    Pelosi also described Saund's life as "the American dream" and said here was "an immigrant from India, he came to this country to further his education and worked hard to build his life and care for his family, despite the discrimination that many Asians faced during the 1920s."
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