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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Historic Firsts as Hindus Celebrate Decade of Advocacy on Capitol Hill

Historic Firsts as Hindus Celebrate Decade of Advocacy on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON -- A Hindu monk offered the opening prayer for the House of Representatives and the birth sesquicentennial of Swami Vivekananda, considered Hinduism's first ambassador to the West, was marked in the Congressional record  on morning of June 4.  

These two historical firsts led up to a gala celebration attended by over 300 as the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) marked its tenth year of advocacy on Capitol Hill.  A parade of Senate and House leaders took turns at the podium of the ornate Caucus Room of the House Cannon Building and lauded the Foundation's accomplishments over the years.
"The dividends of a decade of investments in education, advocacy, and tireless interactions with every level of our nation's government were on display throughout HAF's full day of events," said Mihir Meghani, M.D., Co-Founder and member of the HAF Board of Directors. 
 "A Hindu prayer given on the floor of the House, and the words of Swami Vivekananda offered by Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) inspired a remarkable day and will carry us into the next decade of tireless work." 
For the tenth consecutive year, over fifty delegates representing HAF fanned out in teams visiting dozens of congressional offices on the Senate and House sides of the U.S. Capitol on June 4.  
Delegates covered domestic issues as well, articulating uniquely Hindu perspectives on the pending immigration legislation. On a joint invitation of Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, spiritual head of Kauai's Hindu Monastery and Publisher of the Hinduism Today magazine, offered a Hindu invocation to open the day's House proceedings.
As the gala reception got under way, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) accepted HAF's Friend of the Community award while affirming his commitment to ensuring that the FBI mandate a separate category for the tracking of data for hate crimes committed against Hindus — a position long advocated by HAF. Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, similarly was awarded for his work on pushing for the anti-Hindu hate crime data category on the House side. 
Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) accepted the third HAF Friend of the Community Award for his commitment to promoting promoting pluralism and inter-religious dialogue, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the first Hindu American elected to Congress, was recognized for her history-making win.   
"Our government leaders are hearing from Hindu Americans in a sustained, consistent way for the last decade, and the results are showing," said Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF's Executive Director and Legal Counsel.  "Our commitment to the community is to continue these efforts, expand them, and usher in a new generation of Hindu American leaders making a difference in political engagement."     

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