President Donald Trump lit a diya to celebrate Diwali in the Oval Office with a group of Indian-Americans from his administration, including ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and members of the community, as he made a nod to a “very strong relationship” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, top donor to the Trump campaign and Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalabh Kumar and his family were also present, according to those who attended.
Barack Obama was the first president to celebrate Diwali in the White House – in 2009, his first year in office – by lighting a diya, and this grew into a major celebration over the years. First lady Michelle Obama learnt Bollywood dance steps for the White House celebration in 2013.
“Today, I was deeply honoured to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community – to celebrate Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights,” Trump said in brief remarks from behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday, flanked by his guests.
“As we do so, we especially remember the people of India, the home of the Hindu faith, who have built the world’s largest democracy.
“I greatly value my very strong relationship with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi,” he added.