United States Vice President Kamala Harris attributed her success to the dedication, determination and courage of her Indian American mother.
Ms Harris is the first Indian-origin vice president of the US.
“It is because of her dedication, her determination and her courage that I stand before you as vice president of the United States,” Ms Harris told a gathering of more than 200 eminent Indian Americans at a White House Diwali reception hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.
She recollected her frequent visits to Chennai as a child and celebrating Diwali with grandparents.
“I have such fond memories of celebrating Diwali as a child. Like many of you, we would go to India about every other year, avoiding the monsoon season, and we would go for Diwali. I have such fond memories of waking up in the middle of the night, me and my sister Maya, and going, of course, to the eldest in our family, which was our grandfather.
“And later in the day, my mother would give us little sparklers and we would go into the streets to celebrate this very important occasion,” she recalled.
Ms Harris said her mother arrived in the US at the age of 19 for studies. “She arrived by herself. But it was her goal to become a breast cancer researcher. And in our country, in this country, she built a life. She earned her PhD, excelled in her field and raised my sister and me,” Ms Harris said.
Describing Diwali a “holiday of hope”, she said the festival helps one to see light in the world, in each other and in oneself. “We also are reminded to shine our light in the darkness to fight for peace, for justice, for understanding.” “Even as powerful forces work to sow hate and divide, we remember that in these moments where we see darkness, our light shines the brightest. That is part of what reminds us of Diwali. In moments of darkness, we see the light,” she said.
On the occasion, Harris called on the people to realise the ideals of freedom, democracy and equality.
Ms Harris had on Friday hosted more than 100 Indian Americans at her residence for Diwali celebrations. She not only decorated the entire Naval Observatory residence with diyas, but also lit little sparklers with the guests.
President Biden appreciated Harris for often mentioning her mother in her speeches.
“And one of the things I admire the most about Kamala, she often talks about her mom,” he said. Ms Harris celebrated her birthday last week. “She turned 30,” Joe Biden said jokingly amidst laughter from the guests.
“We know your mom’s always with you. Yes, all the time. And I want to thank you for the courage it took for her and for so many of you out there to actually pick up and move your families and start the journey to America,” Joe Biden said.
“It’s pretty amazing the sacrifices to leave everything behind, choosing to believe the idea that this nation has a singular place in the place of possibilities,” he added. Joe Biden recollected that one of the last events he had hosted at the Vice President’s Naval Observatory in late November 2016 was Diwali.
“It was the first Diwali reception ever to be held there. I’m an Irish Catholic and opening our home for holidays, observed by Hindus, Buddhist, Jains, Sikhs… that night we were joined by Muslims, Christians and people representing diversity and diaspora here in America from all over the world, including the then newly elected Indian American members of Congress, two of whom are here today, Ro (Khanna) and Raja (Krishnamoorthi),” he recalled.