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First Hindu in Congress a Model for Youth

on 2013/8/26 3:53:54 ( 1871 reads )


WASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 2013 (Civil Beat): In June, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard wasn't in Hawaii or in D.C., but in Chicago, handing out awards to the winners of the national Dharma Bee, an event in which youths answer questions about their religion. She praised them, according to a report in an Indian-American newspaper, saying in a rare speech about faith that the youths did not succeed in the competition "because mom and dad asked them to do so, but they have realized and learned the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita themselves."

Reflecting Gabbard's popularity among Indian-Americans nationally as the first Hindu member of Congress, she felt welcomed at the event. "Everyone wanted to meet her one on one," said Sreevidya Radhakrishna, one of the organizers of the event.

Since taking office to fanfare in the United States and in India, Gabbard's faith hasn't been a prominent part of her national image. In contrast, with members of the religious right who are vocal about being driven by their faith, the National Guard veteran has mostly been identified with issues like reducing sexual assaults in the military, or more recently, supporting the reining in of domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.

But while not publicized, she's been criss-crossing the nation to speak about her faith. In addition to attending the Dharma Bee, she spoke at the Hindu Youth Awards Gala in Houston on July 13, attended the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Convention in Chicago on May 23, and is slated to be the keynote speaker at the Hindu American Foundation gala dinner in Milpitas, California, on Sept. 14.

From California to Houston to Chicago, Gabbard has been finding enthusiastic crowds of Indian-Americans, who despite the fact that she is not Indian, feel the pride of seeing one of their own for the first time in Congress. She's become a role model for Indian-American youths, said Gaurav Ved, the youth coordinator for Hindus of Greater Houston, the organization that held the youth gala.

Gabbard declined to be interviewed for this article. But in a statement after her victory, Gabbard appeared to understand her symbolic importance, saying, "On my last trip to the mainland, I met a man who told me that his teenage daughter felt embarrassed about her faith, but after meeting me, she's no longer feeling that way."

"He was so happy that my being elected to Congress would give hope to hundreds and thousands of young Hindus in America, that they can be open about their faith and even run for office, without fear of being discriminated against or attacked because of their religion," her statement said.

More of this lengthy article at 'source.'

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