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White House Sways to Bhangra to Celebrate Asian Heritage

By: for SIFY News on May 26, 2010
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The US President has close ties to the Asian American community.
After celebrating Diwali last year by lighting a ceremonial diya, US President Barack Obama celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with bhangra beats that he said had probably not been heard in the White House before.

'I want to thank DJ Rekha (Malhotra) who's been spinning a little East Room bhangra for everybody - mixing a hip-hop beat with the sounds of her heritage; making a uniquely American sound that may not have been heard in the White House before,' Obama said greeting guests Monday amid loud applause and laughter.

'But you know, that speaks to the promise of this country - a nation that welcomes contributions from all people, all colours, all creeds,' added Obama, who last October became the first US President to celebrate Diwali in the White House with Vedic chants by a Hindu priest and a performance by Penn Masala, the world's first Hindi cappella group formed by Pennsylvania University students.

'We draw strength from the rich tradition that everybody can call America home because we all came from somewhere else except for the first Americans; E Pluribus unum, Out of many, one. And there's no better example of this than the communities that are represented in this room,' he said.

Obama acknowledged the significant number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who work in his administration, several of whom were present at the event, led by the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders Kiran Ahuja.

Also present were other senior Indian-American White House officials like Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, Counsel and Senior Adviser to the White House Office of Management and Budget Preeta Bansal and Kal Penn, actor-turned-associate White House director for public engagement.

'Your role in America's story has not always been given its due. And many Asian American and Pacific Islanders have known a tremendous unfairness and injustice during our history,' said Obama.

'But we also know that generations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders helped to build this country, defend this country, and make America what it is today,' he said.

'And, obviously it's personal for me, since you need to look no further than my family-my sister Maya (Soetoro Ng), my brother-in-law Konrad (Ng), and my two mischievous nieces, Suhaila and Savita-to know that it is part of America's past but is also going to be part of America's future,' he said.

'And, for this reason, we are here today to celebrate these contributions. But we're also holding this event because I want to make sure we are hearing from you-so that the government does its part on your behalf, just as you're doing your part on America's behalf,' said the president.
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