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April 30, 2009

Hindu Community’s Report on Barack Obama’s First 100 Days in Office

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Hindu Americans, like other minorities and new immigrants, were excited and involved with Obama for President as a candidate. They cheered him, canvassed for him, raised funds for his campaign and supported his election whole heartedly in many ways. During this election many more of our second generation became eligible to vote for the first time. And they voted for Obama.

At the same time, they also held very high hopes of him once he was elected to the highest office. One of the most significant aspects of our collective hopes was that his administration will be more inclusive than previous ones. It is therefore gratifying to note that, for the first time, Barack Obama in his Presidential inaugural speech included the word Hindu while listing the names of religious groups, thus explicitly recognizing the faith of a billion people on earth, and the faith of the vast majority of Indian Americans, now over 2 million strong in America.  Also for the first time, a Hindu representative, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York, was invited to the National Prayer Service /benediction following the Presidential Inauguration. These firsts are very significant events for the Hindu community in America.

Another major development during the first 100 days was the appointment to the President’s Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, of Anju Bhargava, President, Asian Indian Women in America and Founder, Indian Americans Building Communities.  Bhargava’s appointment affords the Hindu community a voice on par in the religious and community development landscape of America.  With unprecedented downturn in the economy brought about by the strongest recession since the 1930’s depression, many people have lost jobs and homes.  This is the time when people turn to find solace in their faith.  Hence, it is particularly important now that faith based organizations put extra efforts to serve their communities.  Since the US population is so diverse with many faiths, ethnicities and languages, it is heartening to see that our President’s agenda includes representations from many diverse faiths in our society to help the people in these very difficult times.  The faith based organizations should fully understand the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and help redirect the dollars and the opportunities from this once in a lifetime government effort to empower and strengthen the communities they service.

Additionally, the Indian American community is pleased with the appointments of Preeta Bansal, Neal Katyal, Sonal Shah, Kalpen Modi, Rajiv Shah, Neera Tandon, Aneesh Chopra and Vivek Kundra to high level positions.  Hindu American community has a very strong presence in the medical profession and we hope to see one serve as the Surgeon General in the future.

US relations with India are a matter of high interest to the Hindu American community.  President Obama’s administration has made tremendous improvements in international relations. However, a lack of progress in defining solutions to the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq/Iran problems, combined with the old political conundrums like CTBT have stymied progress in relations with India. And, India is the only country in the region that shares with USA the democratic principles of government.  India desperately wants to maintain peaceful relations with its neighbors in spite of a barrage of terrorist activities directed towards its major cities including the capital New Delhi, business hub Mumbai, IT hub Bangalore, and the most sacred temples and cities like Varanasi. Immigration is another major concern to the Hindu American community. The economic recession has made foreign worker H1B visa holders unwelcome in America.  This is short sighted and hopefully short lived. We hope the recent restriction will be lifted as economy pulls out of the recession.

The Hindu American community wishes President Barack Obama well in his endeavors and joins hands with him in taking our nation out of the current crisis onto a path of continued prosperity