Obama honours India-American social activist posthumously

Obama honours India-American social activist posthumously

Obama described Emani and 12 other recipients of the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal "a remarkable group of Americans," who were "united by the choices they made" to help others in need.

"The 13 Americans that we honour today have all faced that ... moment when you see a neighbour in need and you have to ask yourself the question. They come from different backgrounds and they've devoted their lives to different causes, but they are united by the choice that they've made.

"They could have made excuses for doing nothing. Instead, they chose to help," Obama said yesterday while presenting the prestigious civilian award at an impressive ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

Emani, 51, who died in 2009 in a car accident, broke a cultural taboo by speaking out about domestic violence and helping other women in abusive relationships. Amid applause, Sujata and Nirmala Emani, accepted the award on behalf of their mother.

"Vijaya Emani became a role model for victims of domestic abuse because of her strength and determination in overcoming domestic abuse in her own life. She broke a long held taboo in the Indian-American community by speaking out about the issue publicly," a White House announcement on her said.

"Although she was killed in a tragic vehicle accident, her example and message live on. Emani posthumously receives the Citizens Medal for her courage in overcoming and speaking out against abuse," it said.

"Breaking long-held taboos, Vijaya Emani lent her voice to protect Indian-American women from domestic violence. Taken from us far too soon, she was a trailblazer who shared her personal story to help other battered women overcome abusive relationships," the citation read at the ceremony said.

"With boundless energy and an insatiable drive to serve her community, she threw herself into numerous causes, from supporting single parents to honoring India's cultural heritage. The United States honours Vijaya Emani for her many contributions to the people of Cleveland and our nation," it said.

The 13 people who received this year's medal were nominated by the public and then carefully selected by the White House.

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