President Donald Trump took part in an event celebrating Diwali Tuesday at the White House alongside several administration officials.
“Our nation is blessed to be home to millions of hardworking citizens of Indian and southeast Asian heritage, who enrich our country in countless ways. Together we are one proud American family,” Trump said. “I’m grateful to have numerous Americans of Indian and southeast Asian heritage who fulfill critical roles across my administration, and they’ve done an incredible job.”
Diwali — a major cultural and religious festival observed among Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in India and the diaspora around the world — is known as the “festival of lights” and celebrates the victory of dharma, or cosmic order, and good over evil. During the celebration, diyas, typically oil lamps or candles, are lit, symbolizing enlightenment overwhelming ignorance — which is represented by darkness. Trump lit a diya during the Roosevelt Room ceremony.
Promotion of the White House celebration wasn’t without its hiccups.
An initial tweet from the @realDonaldTrump account recognizing the festival as “a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains” did not mention Hindus, who make up a majority of those who celebrate the holiday. The tweet, a direct quote from the President’s spoken remarks, included a broken link. It was deleted after several Twitter users commented that the post excluded Hindus.
A second tweet was then posted an updated link but the same remark. Finally, a third tweet, calling Diwali “the Hindu Festival of Lights” was published.
During the White House ceremony, Trump announced that he is nominating Neomi Rao to fill Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s seat on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
He also teased Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who was in the room.
“I just didn’t like one decision he made but that’s all right,” Trump said as he was introducing Pai, potentially referencing Pai’s decision on a merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media.
“Not even a little bit. He’s independent,” Trump joked, as the group of administration officials behind him laughed.
In July, Trump called the Sinclair/Tribune merger decision “so sad and unfair.”
Trump took part in a similar diya-lighting ceremony in Oval Office last year alongside Pai, then-US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, who was also present this year.
According to the Times of India, President Barack Obama was both the first US president to hold a Diwali celebration at the White House in 2009 and also the first US president to light a diya in the Oval Office in 2016.