Just after the painful midterm elections, President Obama will be visiting India. His visit comes in time for Diwali, the country’s most important holiday festival. This “Festival of Lights” is five days long and involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to show the triumph of good over evil. Obama became the first president to observe the holiday last year in a ceremony at the White House, and this year will take part in festivities held at a school in Mumbai. It also marks the beginning of a 10-day trip through India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
U.S. presidents are known for their trips overseas, taking in other cultures and participating in international celebrations. Obama’s visit to India during Diwali is nothing different, only new because no president has partaken in Diwali celebrations before. On the official White House website was a message for those celebrating the holiday, giving well wishes to those marking the joyous occasion. This is an example of the classic American trait of embracing other cultures, which has been lost a bit in the myriad political differences the country has suffered.
These celebrations are obviously overshadowed by the Republican takeover of the House, which has taken up much of the news of late. There probably won’t be much made of Obama’s trip and Diwali celebrations in the American press. Hopefully it won’t give naysayers more ammunition to the allegations of Obama secretly being a Muslim. For those fortunate enough to participate in the celebrations with the President, this will be a holiday highlight. Those who celebrate the holiday are likely to welcome the President, appreciating the leader of the free world taking part in their festivities.
Such events can only bring upon goodwill, if nothing else. In these chaotic times, such things are usually unfortunately ignored. All we can do is promote goodwill and the embrace of other cultures, and hope that goodwill spreads. As the holidays ring closer, this holiday could bring a nice photo op during a time of bad press. It’ll probably be nothing more than a momentary blip, but that won’t be the case for the people of India. At a time when many consider America to be intolerant, any showing of us appreciating other cultures can only help. People all over the world also seem to like Obama, so why not have him celebrate a very important international holiday? Sometimes, the only way to make amends is a show of goodwill.
Magaret Talev, “As Indians celebrate Diwali, no one- certainly not President Obama- is spared a little holiday fun”, McClatchyDC.com
Supratim Sunyal, “Happy Diwali wish from the White House applauded”, Washington Bangala Radio USA