A Night of Love and Strength in DiversityDecember 13th, 2017
A Night of Love and Strength in Diversity
Did you miss the 2017 SALDEF National Gala? This year it was sold out with over 330 guests coming from across the nation! The Sikh American community came together to celebrate our nation’s Strength in Diversity. As featured speakers and honorees spoke through the night, another theme started to develop — conquering hate with love.
Gala guests heard remarks and inspiring words from Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Entrepreneur Ash Singh, Khalsa Aid founder and 2017 Bhagat Singh Thind Community Empowerment Awardee Ravi Singh, Washington State Senator Manka Kaur Dhingra, special guest speaker Leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada Jagmeet Singh, SALDEF’s Board members, and SikhLEAD alumni.
SALDEF Co-Founder and Chairman Manjit Singh’s opening remarks set the stage for the evening to follow emphasizing the theme of the night, he stated, “One of the key founding principles of this country, “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “Out of Many, One” is being undermined and devalued. The strength of our nation is in our diversity. The unique beliefs, values, and practices of our different races, ethnicities, and religions are the source of our nation’s strength.”
Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) spoke about the first amendment and the importance of being able to practice and protect everyone’s religion. “America is the success story of the world because we have opened ourselves up to everybody but don’t let anybody dominate everybody else”, said Raskin. “Our founders wrote that beautiful First Amendment that not just defends our freedom of expression and freedom of speech, but also the principles of religious freedom; government shall not establish a religion, the government shall not interfere with the free exercise of religion!”
All attendees were treated to an exciting surprise as Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh appeared via live video stream to address them, “I am only here today because others choose to break barriers.” Looking into the future Mr. Singh also said, “I hope to be a part of the voice fighting against this rise of hate by promoting love and courage.”
Manka Kaur Dhingra, the first Sikh American ever elected to a state legislature, gave a heartwarming speech highlighting her decision to run for State Senate and what ultimately helped her win. State Senator Dhingra, in speaking about values and combating hate said, “When we are attacked with fear, divisiveness, and dishonesty; we respond with love. We respond with integrity, honesty and a commitment to solving real problems together.”
Ravi Singh, the founder of Khalsa Aid, an international Sikh humanitarian organization with its head office in the UK, received the Bhagat Singh Thind Community Empowerment Award for his leadership and embodiment of the Sikh values of Seva (selfless service) and Sarbat da Bhalla (welfare of all). The room went silent as he told the story about his work in Iraq with Yazidi women enslaved and held captive by ISIS. His speech was personal, emotional and a call to action. “This award I dedicate to those women (Yazidi Women) who were held captive as slaves by ISIS, who went through hell, who the world has forgotten – The work of Khalsa Aid is about love, is about humanity.” He then closed his speech by saying, “Do not fall into the trap of hating any face. Our ninth Guru gave his life to defend the rights of religion, the right of freedom, the right of speech. Who are we to hate any face?”
The Keynote Speaker for the evening, Ash Singh, shared what inspired him to create the Turbanizer mobile app. Mr. Singh listed statistics from SALDEF’s Turban Myths report as the source of his motivation to demystify the Sikh Turban through a mobile app accessible by anyone from anywhere. The app allows users to turbanize themselves by taking a selfie with their mobile device and Ash has laid out an ambitious goal to “turbanize” 100 million people in 10 years.
The evening ended with closing remarks from incoming SALDEF Board Chair Kavneet Singh, who highlighted the progress the community has made in 2017 and issued a call to action for the next year. “Our mission for 2018 is developing leaders through our SikhLEAD program, ensuring Sikh Americans vote in record numbers during the 2018 election cycle, and we continue to shift the perception of Sikh Americans, making sure our neighbors know who we are. Guru Nanak Sahib led through love and taught us that once you show people who you are and what you believe in, nothing else needs to be done.”
The night concluded with great performances by Simran (Sammi) Singh and Harpreet Singh Dhami, the two singers took the stage singing traditional Punjabi music.
If you were unable to attend or see the event live, stay tuned! You can watch videos of the Gala at www.facebook.com/SALDEF and also view photos of the event.