United States President Donald Trump celebrated Diwali in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday with several Indian-American members of the administration. However, he kept reporters out of the celebration.
The diya lighting ceremony was closed to the press pool – a group of media organisations that combine their resources to gather news – and no immediate explanation was given, a White House correspondent for The Washington Times said.
Before lighting the diya, Trump said he was “deeply honored to be joined by so many administration officials and leaders of the Indian-American community to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights”.
He also praised Indian-Americans for their contributions to the United States and the world and said he greatly valued his strong relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“You have made extraordinary contributions to art, science, medicine, business and education,” Trump said. “America is especially thankful for its many Indian-American citizens who serve bravely in our armed forces and as first responders.”
The president lit a traditional diya in the Oval Office in the presence of US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Varma, Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai and his Principle Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah, PTI reported.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka was also present at the celebration. President (Midwest Region) of the US Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce Krishna Bansal shared the images on Facebook.
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was the first US president to light a lamp inside the Oval Office in 2016. Obama was also the first to celebrate the festival personally by lighting a diya, PTI reported.
Former President George Bush Jr started the tradition of celebrating Diwali at the White House. He did not participate in the festivities personally, but Diwali was celebrated in the India Treaty Room during his term.