WASHINGTON: Continuing the tradition of previous administrations, President Donald Trump celebrated Diwali on Tuesday in the Oval Office of the White House along with senior Indian-American members of the administration, including Nikki Haley, Seema Verma and community leaders.
However, unlike the the celebrations held by his predecessor, Trump’s diya lighting ceremony was closed to the press pool and no immediate explanation was given, a White House correspondent for The Washington Times said.
At the ceremony, according to a White House press statement, while expressing his appreciation for Indians, the US President said he values his ‘very strong’ relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Today, I was deeply honored to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community – to celebrate Diwali — the Hindu Festival of Lights,” Trump said.
“As we do so, we especially remember the People of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy. I greatly value my very strong relationship with Prime Minister Modi,” he added.
Trump also lit diyas on the occasion and hailed the Indian community’s contribution
in different fields.
“You have made extraordinary contributions to art, science, medicine, business and education. America is especially thankful for its many Indian-American citizens who serve bravely in our armed forces and as first responders in communities throughout our great land,” he said.
Cabinet ranking Haley is US Ambassador to the UN and Seema Verma is administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Ajit Pai, Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission and Raj Shah his Principle Deputy Press Secretary were among those from his administration.
Daughter Ivanka Trump also joined the President in celebration of Diwali celebrations.
Last year Ivanka, who is now a presidential advisor, had visited Hindu temples in Virginia and Florida as part of Diwali.
Trump, then as the Republican presidential nominee, had addressed the Indian-American community from a public meeting in New Jersey wherein he lit the traditional diya.
The tradition of Diwali celebration was first started by former President George Bush. However, he never personally participated in the White House Diwali celebrations.
In June, Trump famously ended a decades-long White House tradition of celebrating Ramadan with an ‘iftar’ dinner, so there were some apprehensions in the Indian-American community whether the Diwali dinner too would be canceled.