The White House hosted Diwali on Thursday in the historic Indian Treaty Room in the Old Executive Building for the fourth successive year. However, for the fourth time running, President George W Bush, who was busy campaigning for his besieged Republican Party in Pennsylvania and Virginia, failed to be there.
Thus, more than 150 Indian Americans from across the country had to make do with Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes who keynoted the event as chief guest, and Jay Hein, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, who lit the diya.
Bush, however, sent a written greeting to all those celebrating Diwali, saying, 'Every year during Diwali, Hindus remember their many blessings and celebrate their hope for a brighter future'.
He said, 'The Festival of Lights demonstrates the rich history and traditions of the Hindu faith as friends and family come together in a spirit of love and joy'.
Bush declared that 'this celebration unites people around the world in goodwill and reminds us of the many cultures that enrich our nation'.
"Laura and I send our best wishes for a joyous Diwali and a year of happiness," he added.
Hughes, one of the closest confidantes of Bush, who also hails from Texas, in her remarks spoke of how 'Diwali transcends ethnicity, race and time', and that 'homes across the world will be full of light during Diwali'.
She said that 'as we celebrate Diwali, we also celebrate humanity, compassion and prosperity'.
Hughes also lauded the Indian American community for the contributions they've made and continue to make in their various fields of endeavour in the United States and said, "All of you add so much to the tapestry of a rich American life."
She was also not above exhorting those present to continue with their sustained efforts to make sure the enabling legislation to facilitate the US-India civilian nuclear agreement is taken up by the Senate in the lame-duck session and approved.
"It is critical that the US Senate approve this legislation in November," she said, and while calling on the Indian American community to 'sustain the momentum', expressed optimism that 'a vote will take place in November'.
"Your support is essential to see this legislation through," Hughes added.
Hughes, who said she hopes to visit India next year, spoke at length about the growing strategic partnership between the US and India and the commonalities between the two nations.
While noting that 'India is such a valuable partner', said to loud applause that America and President Bush is most loved and enjoys the most support in India among all countries in the world, according to numerous polls.
"We look forward to strengthening these bonds of friendship," she added.