Indian-American community holds inaugural ball for Obama

Indian-American community holds inaugural ball for Obama

Indian-Americans here held their first-ever inaugural ball to celebrate US President Barack Obama's second term in office ahead of his swearing-in ceremony, signalling the coming of age of the three million- plus community in the country.

"Indian-Americans are tremendously important and we hope they would be increasingly visible not only in the government, but also in all parts of American life," Maya Kassandra Soetoro-Ng, the second half-sister of Obama, said, adding that the President was very proud of the Indian-Americans.

"It is certainly a reflection of how important India is and how important Indian-Americans are to the fabric of the nation. I would just like to celebrate all of the contribution artistic, political and so much more of the Indian-American community," Maya told reporters on her way to the red carpet welcome of the first-ever Indian-American inaugural ball.

The event was organised by Indiaspora -- a recently formed organisation which aims to be a catalyst to transform the success of Indian-Americans into meaningful impact in India and on the global stage.

"It is time we come to recognise fully the contribution of the Indian-American community here," Maya said, reflecting the views of US President Barack Obama who has the distinction of appointing the largest number of Indian-Americans in any presidential administration ever.

"It is very exciting to serve in an Administration that has so many great Indian-Americans serving," said Raj Shah, Administrator of USIAD, the highest ranking Indian-American in the Obama Administration.

Not only members of the community serving in the Obama Administration attended the inaugural ball, in addition to the who's who of the community from across the nation, but the event was also marked by the presence of a large number of Congressmen, and several Governors (from both the Republican and Democratic parties), reflecting the importance they attach to the emergence of this small but powerful community.

"I think it is wonderful for the Indian-American community. It is coming of age, politically for them. This is not just a ball. This is a massive gala," said Congressman Joe Crowley, Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, referring to the hundreds of Indian-Americans who had gathered at the inaugural ball of the community.

"There are not many ball or gala this weekend that would rival this one I believe. So this speaks volume to the political advancement of the Indian-American community," he said.

"My hope is to continue the important work," Republican Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee, said.

Royce, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, said the inaugural ball is the reflection of strength of the community and his presence a reflective of the bipartisan nature of support for India-US relationship and the contribution of the Indian-American community to this.

Royce hoped the two great democracies can work together. He said that the US has joined India in this struggle and challenge that the terrorism poses in the region.
"We have institutionalised the strength of this relationship. I think, it is also bipartisanship," Royce said.

"This is amazing. This is celebration of the Indian- American community, being together, it is celebration of our arts, cuisine, our entertainment. This is the first ball...it will be first of many," Congressman Dr Ami Bera, the only Indian-American lawmaker in the current Congress, said.

He is the third ever Indian-American Congressman to have ever been elected to the US Congress.

"Let's have more Congressmen, two three. The next decade is going to be wonderful for the community," Bera said.

"We are celebrating the wonderful friendship between the United States and India," said Robert Blake, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said.

Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami and the brain behind the highly successful show, which attracted more than 1200 persons with tickets ranging from USD 300 to USD 1,500 -- said that Indiaspora is discussing the creation of an "Indian-American Agenda," which will lay out the issues of imminent concern to the community.

These concerns include an institutionalised approach that supports Indian-American candidates at all levels of American government regardless of party affiliation; a process for raising the awareness and resources needed to take care of the underprivileged and "invisibles" in the Indian-American community.

"It also includes a kick-start for President Obama's second-term 'strategic partnership' with India, shaped with input from key 'India-oriented' think tank leaders from both sides, a strong commitment from India that domestic reforms will be carried through before their next election and an effective set of philanthropic models that can serve as a bridge between the US and India that can be used to channel donations of money, services and time," Rangaswami said.

Among other prominent attendees at the inaugural ball were Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the US; N Chandrasekaran CEO Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), lawmakers Tulsi Gabbard (first Hindu Congresswoman), Mike Honda, Judy Chu, Greg Meng, Vinai Thumalapally (the first Indian-American Ambassador); and governors Jack Markell (Delaware) and Martin O'Malley (Maryland).

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