First White House celebration of Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, Founder of Sikhism

  

   Several Top officials of Obama Administration participate

  

  

  Christina Tchen, Head of the White House office of Public Engagement welcoming the Sikhs. Dr. Rajwant Singh on the right and Sarabjit Singh on the left.


   Washington -'Welcome to the White House' was the greeting with which Christina M. Tchen, head of the White House office of Public Engagement office, greeted a room full of Sikh men with all kinds of colorful turbans and ladies with traditional Punjabi dress, gathered to celebrate Guru Nanak's birth-anniversary for the first time on Friday afternoon. She reiterated, 'This is your White House and this first event is the just the beginning and it will be part of many gatherings of your community here. We want to you stay in contact with us."

  

  Tchen being given a book on Guru Nanak. From left to right: Nirmal Singh Nilvi from TX, Darshan Singh Bajwa from CT, Rajwant Singh, Tehel Singh from NY and Harpreet Singh Sandhu from CA


   Senior officials at the White House greeted 125 Sikhs at the entrance to the White House complex. The program, which began at 3:15 pm, started with a Sikh prayer by Sarabjit Singh, Granthi of NY Gurdwara in Glen Cove in Long Island. He offered prayers for President Obama and his administration in addition the prayers for the well-being of entire humanity.

  

  Sarabjit Singh offering prayers at the beginning of the program.


  

  Ragi Nirmal Singh performing Sikh traditional music.


   Traditional Kirtan with harmonium and tabla was performed by Ragi Nirmal Singh Nagpuri, and Sukhjeevan Singh of the Golden Temple, India, and translation of hymns was provided. They were accompanied by talented Tabla player Sucha Singh of Jalandhar. In addition, Guru Sangat Singh and Gursangat Kaur, American Sikhs sang a song of Nanak in English which was accompanied by Guitar. This event was organized by the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) in partnership with the White House and had invited the Sikh representatives from all over the country. Dr. Rajwant Singh conducted the stage and Paul Monteiro introduced all the participants from the White House.

  

  Dr. Rajwant Singh and Paul Monteiro jointly conducted the stage


  

  Sikhs listening to Kirtan


   Speeches of senior officials of President Obama's administration were interspersed by series of Sikh greetings Bole So Nihal and thunderous response of "Sat Sri Akal" which means - 'whoever calls the Timeless Being is true, is blessed'.

  

  Kalpen Modi being given a book on Guru Nanak, from left to right: Rana Singh Sodhi from Phoenix, Madan Singh from AZ, Meenu Kaur Nandra from VA, Sarabjit Singh from Los Angeles, Bhupinder Singh Sodhi from Orlando and Dr. Sarabjit Kaur from Maryland.


   Religious representative of President Obama, Paul Monteiro, said, "It is truly a privilege to host this event and it is special day for the White House to mark this significant occasion for the Sikh community. We welcome you to be involved in everything that President is involved."

  

  Michael Strautmanis Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement is being given a book. From left to right Baldev Singh from Chicago, Baldev Singh Grewal from NY, Darshan Singh Bagga from NY, Harjit Singh Galotra from Houston, Harpreet Singh Everest from Yuba City, CA.


   Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) who 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 added, "This is a historical day for the entire community in America and a dream come true moment for many of us."

  

  Sikhs with Paul Monteiro


  

  Guru Sangat Kaur and Guru Sangat Singh performing a song on Nanak


   Among the officials who spoke and intermingled with the Sikhs at this event were: Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary for President Obama, Kalpen Modi, a Hollywood actor and now Associate Director of Public Engagement office, President Obama's top science adviser, John P. Holdren, Michael Strautmanis Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement, Adolfo Carrion, Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. Joshua DuBois, Director of the White House Faith Based Initiative also stopped by to say hello to the Sikh attendees.

Gurparkash Singh of New Jersey, said, "I am glad that I was part of a historic moment - a celebration of ideals of Sikhism by the members of the Obama administration. We really appreciate President Obama reaching out to us. We do hope Obama administration would use our communities talent to their advantage, and appoint a Sikh American in their administration."

Parminder Singh, a Yale graduate and now works as an official in consulting firm in Washington, said, "Just as we all get into the Christmas spirit every December, today, we are bringing Guru Nanak's spirit of service, good tidings, and humility to the White House. As we reflect on this, it's important to note that the Christmas spirit and Guru Nanak's spirit are really the same thing -- this is what interfaith work is all about."

Harpreet Singh Everest, a young man from Yuba City and a grand son of Sikh pioneer, said, "To see administrative officials of the President of the United States sitting down cross legged listening to keertan was a sight to behold. This illustrates the progress Sikhs are making in connecting with government officials so that we can build solidarity in this country and ultimately educate the world about who we are and the universal message our religion propagates."

Dr. Kanwerjit Singh Bedi, a physician from Cleveland, said, "think this is really a matter of pride for all the Sikhs in the United states as well as all over the world to have this honorable recognition of our Sikh faith by the White House administration. I congratulate all the Sikh Nation on Guru Nanak Devji's Gurpurab and admire the SCORE for their successful and fruitful efforts."

  

  From left to right: Drs Darshan Singh Sehbi and Simran Sehbi from Dayton, OH, and Jasbir Singh Bhatia from FL, Harbir K. Bhatia from San Francisco, Parmajit Singh Bedi from VA, Paul Monteiro, Joshua DuBois, and Surinder Singh Raheja


   Dawinder Singh Sidhu, SCORE Special Counsel said, "Symbolically this was a very significant moment for all Sikhs in the United States. The administration officials were very gracious in their remarks, making it clear that their wanted to work with the Sikh community and respond to any concerns or suggestions we may have. The event suggests that the relationship between the White House and Sikhs will only strengthen and grow more intimate moving forward."

Dr. Darshan Singh Sehbi, faculty at the Wright State University School of Medicine and his wife Dr. Simran Kaur Sehbi, who also attended this program, said, "It was a historic occasion not only for those who were fortunate enough to attend, but for Sikhs all over the world. We are grateful to Dr. Rajwant Singh and his team who helped organize this event. This is the first time Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji's birthday was celebrated at the White House and I fervently hope that it continues as an annual event that Sikhs from all over the world can attend."

  

  From left to right: Dr. Sarabjit Kaur, Dr. Balvinder Kaur, Dr. Harminder Kaur Mangat, Paul Monteiro, Avtar Kaur Reehal from Columbus, OH, Joshua DuBois, Gagan Kaur Narang, and Meenu Kaur Nandra


   Darsh Singh, a young man from San Antonio and now working in Baltimore, said, "It was wonderful to see the administration join the Sikhs in the celebration of Guru Nanak Sahib's revolutionary way of living. It was inspiring to see everyone come together and echo Guru Sahib's teachings of equality for all women and men along with service to this world and its inhabitants. The representatives of the administration were inspirational in their desire to build relationships and serve the Sikh community."

  

  Aneesh Chopra is the first Federal Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO) with Amandeep Sidhu of the Sikh Coalition.


   Jasbir Singh Bhatia, President of Sikh Society of Central Florida, presented the vote of thanks at the end and said, "The 500 years old message of Guru Nanak is still relevant today (is eternally true).

American values "In God we trust", and "Equal opportunity for all people regardless of their background" in a way reflect Guru Nanak’s message."

Dr. Harminder Kaur Mangat, Gagan Kaur Narang, Harpreet Singh of United Sikhs, Harpreet Singh Sandhu Ex-City Councilman Richmond, California and Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party, from California, Parminder Singh, and Jasbir Singh Bhatia spoke during the celebrations. Catering and refreshment were provided very generously by Aroma Restaurants owned by Daljit Singh.

Some of the other Sikhs who attended were: Bibi Inderjit Kaur, wife of Late Harbhajan Singh Yogi, from Espanola, New Mexico, Tehel Singh, President of Sikh Cultural Society, the largest Gurdwara in New York, Satjiv Singh Chahil, a top official of computer giant company Hewlett-Packard, Bhupinder Singh Sodhi from Florida, Sarbjit Singh from Los Angeles, Param Puneet Singh from Pennsylvania, Dr. Kanvarjit Singh Bedi from Cleveland, Rana Singh Sodhi from Phoenix, Arizona whose brother Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed after 9/11 in a hate crime, Surinder Singh Raheja from Virginia, Harpreet Singh Everest from Yuba City, California, Bhupinder Singh Bhurji, representative of Namdhari community in US, Dr. Charn S Nandra, Mohinder Singh Taneja, Harbans Singh Bharij, Gurdial Singh of Ravidass Gurdwara in NY, Darshan Sing Bajwa, Gurbhej Singh Waraich, Madan Mohan Singh, Bhupinder S. Boparai, Jatinder Singh Sabharwal, Gurcharan Singh from the World Bank, Paul Kandhari and Inderpal Singh Dhall, officials of Long Island Gurdwara in NY, and Amandeep Singh Sidhu of Sikh Coalition.

  

  Paul Monteiro being given a book. From left to right: Bhupinder Singh Boparai from NY, Jatinder Singh Sabharwal from Houston, TX, Dr. Kirpal Kaur Bajaj from Baltimore, Tehel Singh from NY and Gurbhej Singh Waraich from NY.


   There are close to half million Sikhs in the U.S and they have now established a thriving community in the United States and continue to make significant contributions to American society as physicians, high-tech professionals, academics, entrepreneurs, cab drivers and convenience store workers. They are amongst the most hard-working, educated and prosperous groups of Americans. The first Asian American to be elected to U. S. Congress in 1962 was a Sikh from California. SCORE had organized a similar event marking the 400th anniversary of the Sikh scriptures at the White House during President Bush time in 2004. AdiGranthWhiteHouse

  

  From Left to right: Paul Singh Kandhari from NY, Mohinder Singh Taneja from NY, Christina Tchen, Bhupinder Singh Bhurji, Inderpal Singh Dhall and Bibi Inderjit Kaur from New Mexico.


  

  Inderjit Singh, Paul, Bhupinder Singh Bhurji and Madan Singh


  

  

  Sikhs with the representative of Joe Biden, the Vice- President of the United States.


  

  Obama's Top Science Advisor John P. Holdren( Center)


  

  

  Representatives of the Justice Department talking about the discrimination cases related to Sikhs


  

  Jasbir Singh Bhatia with the portraits of the President and Vice President at the entrance.


  

  Obama's Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu with Parminder Singh and Navpreet Singh Kohli


  

  Head of the White House Urban Affairs office with Mr. Sikka from Indianapolis, Param Punnet Singh from Pennsylvania, Amandeep Singh Sidhu, Business woman Devinder Kaur from MD, Kamaldeep Kaur from NJ, Kartar Singh from VA, White House's coordinator on Health care reform, Dr. Charn Singh Nandra from Pittsburgh.


  

  

  Paul Monteiro and Joshua DuBois with Harminder Singh Jassal, Inderjit Singh, Arvinder Singh, Sirmukh Singh Manku, Dr. Kanvarjit Singh Bedi from Cleveland, OH.


  


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