Citing Diwali in Mumbai, Obama plugs new era of engagement

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WASHINGTON - Citing his India visit when he and First Lady Michelle celebrated Diwali with children in Mumbai, US President Barack Obama has said his administration has pursued a new era of engagement by building partnerships between peoples.

Joining holiday celebrations at the State Department for diplomats Monday, he said: “As you know, my administration has pursued a new era of engagement around the world - an engagement that’s grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect.”

“And our commitment to diplomacy - to building partnerships of mutual interest and mutual respect - is going to remain a fundamental cornerstone of our foreign policy, he said asserting: “It will not change because not only is it right for America but it’s right for the world.”

“And let me say that our engagement includes building partnerships between our peoples. That’s what Michelle and I worked to do during our recent visit to India, for example, which occurred during Diwali,” Obama said recalling the Mumbai bash with children.

“As many of you have seen, during a Diwali celebration with some of the schoolchildren, Michelle joined in the dancing. So did I. The difference was she was good,” he recalled amid laughter.

“The headlines were a little bruising to my ego. They said, ‘President Obama Visits India.’ ‘Michelle Obama Rocks India,’ he said.

“It was just one small example, but it spoke to a larger truth, one that’s at the heart of this holiday season,” he said.

“When we reach out to one another, when we see beyond the differences that supposedly divide us, when we come together - even if it’s for some dance or some song, or a shared story, a shared memory - we’re reminded that fundamentally we are the same,” Obama said.

“There’s a commonality between us. There is an essential human experience that we all share,” he said. But it “gets lost in politics and it gets lost in rivalries. And there are barriers of ethnicity and religion and language”.

“And yet, scratch the surface, take the time to get to know somebody else from a different culture, a different race, a different ethnicity, and it turns out that there are hopes and dreams that bind us together,” he said.

“Our jobs, both as political leaders and as diplomats, is to make sure that those bonds are strengthened and broadened; that they penetrate into our respective nations; that each of us is able to stand in the other person’s shoes and see through the other person’s eyes; that people are no longer simply ‘the other,’ or simply foreigners, but are in fact our brothers and sisters,” Obama said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

Filed under: Religion

will not be displayed