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SALDEF 2010 National Gala Washington, D.C.


Almas Center, Washington, D. C.

Kanwal Prakash Singh

Organized by the Sikh American Legal and Education Fund (SALDEF) and supported by several benefactors and corporate sponsors, the 2010 National Gala was a resounding success. The Almas Center, venue for the evening’s festivities was beautiful; the north Indian food was delicious; the world-class entertainment by The Tabla Guy, Gurpreet Chana, and accompanied by Mason Bach and the Bhangra Dance by the colorful and exuberant George Mason University Bhangra Team was fun and fabulous. The reassuring words and thoughts of honored guests: Thomas Perez, U.S. Assistant Attorney General as the Keynote Speaker, representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice and The White House set a tone of optimism and a reminder that Sikh Americans have friends in positions of power and influence to help and address the Sikh American community concerns.

SALDEF honored several people for their contributions, community service, and achievements:

Dorothy Height Coalition Building Award: Wade Henderson, CEO & President of LCCR
Bhagat Singh Thind Community Empowerment Award: K.P. Singh
SALDEF Youth Leadership Award: Ajeet Singh Matharu (Posthumously)
Dilip Singh Saund Legislative Leadership Award: Rep. Dave Hunt, Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives
SALDEF Public Service Award: Ravitej Singh Khalsa; and Saba Ahmed

Each award recipient paid a tribute to SALDEF for its critical mandate, advocacy, and leadership. They offered their thoughts and experiences on building upon the legacy of those who came before us and continuing to challenge us to advance our visions and aspirations to further the dreams of all Americans. The multi-generational audience of over 250 guests, invited dignitaries, and outstanding Sikh Americans from across the country, heard about the American values, struggles of the past, and amazing triumphs that today inspire and benefit humanity. We saw our responsibility and opportunities to make a difference to American ideals.

We were greatly heartened to learn about the tireless efforts of the young SALDEF ‘lions’ (Jasjit Singh, Kavneet Singh, Sartaj Singh Dhami, and others) led by Chairman and Co-Founder Mr. Manjit Singh and a very dedicated Board of Directors. For the last decade, they have been taking on the arduous task of mounting legal defense and fighting against the violations of guaranteed rights and protections: redressing the agonizing issues of discrimination, unprovoked violence, hurtful harassment, other hostile and unwelcome incidents, that have shadowed innocent Sikh Americans especially since 9/11. An environment of mutual respect is fundamental to human progress. SALDEF is making us aware of our rights, helping to safeguard them, and educating Americans about the Sikhs, an ethnic minority of 750,000 in the U.S.

As we witnessed the Sikh men and women in their fabulous Punjabi dresses and the American guests dancing to the robust sounds of Bhangra music, we felt assured that the fabled Punjabi folkculture and spirit have found friendly reception in new lands. We are hopeful that in time, the Sikh faith, heritage, and cherished traditions will find their rightful place in the American cultural fabric and across the spiritual landscape. Looking at the printed program highlighting sponsoring organizations, advertizers, benefactors, Gala Committee, and biographies of award recipients, we saw the genius of the recent immigrants hard at work to serve this nation in multiple fields, at many levels in myriad ways, with their gifts, innovative pursuits, and pioneering spirit.

Each such event leaves us amazed as to how far we have come in the last five decades. We all know that we have much distance to cover, and we are ready to invest our talents and energy, ideas and experiences, and heart and commitment to discover our American promise of life, freedom, and happiness; exercise and enjoy our rights to full justice and dignity within the profoundly brilliant democratic framework. With ever-increasing travel, global internet ‘power-grid,’ and the transcending frontiers, a new cultural renaissance of our times is underway. Sikh Americans are at undreamed-of crossroads to anchor their place in this amazing journey.

Indianapolis, Indiana USA
November 1, 2010

Almas Center, Washington, D.C. USA
October 16, 2010

Ek Onm Kar, Sri Wahegurujee Kee Fateh: One supreme Creator; all victories belong to the Wonderful Lord

Guru Teg Bahadur, the Ninth Sikh Guru offered the ultimate sacrifice (nearly three centuries before U.N. Declaration of Human Rights) to defend the sacred rights and honor of a faith community different from his own.

Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Sikh Guru, sacrificed his entire family stem the tyranny and evil rampage of ruling religious zealots against non-Moslems in India. He taught his followers the moral right and spiritual mandate to defend human dignity, freedom; uplifting humanity as an act of faith and conscience, commanding the ideals of universal sacred rights and human dignity.

Bhai Ghanyya, a Sikh sevak of Guru Gobind Singh, served the wounded enemy (Moslem soldiers) in the battlefields (Red Cross came centuries later) as an act of moral and spiritual righteousness, offering a proud testimony of the dignity of life, faiths of all human beings.

President Abraham Lincoln, the Thirteenth Presidented of United States, with exemplary courage advanced the Decaration of Emanicipation and set America on the course to end unconscionable slavery and treatments of blacks in America, upholding the truth: “All men are created equal.”

Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind, a loyal American, World War I veteran, and an ordinary giant fought for his right to U.S. citizenship and demonstrated the power of one. His life and legend leave us a lasting legacy of standing up for one’s rights and the wisdom of sustained peaceful efforts to secure inalienable just rights denied to him and others during his lifetime.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a civil rights and spiritual leader, champion of non-violence, a voice of moral conscience, and a Nobel Laureate for Peace challenged the American society with uncommon passionate conviction to deliver equal justice, rights, and freedoms to all Americans.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, to his followers a Buddha of Compassion and to the world, a spiritual global rattna and beloved humanitarian advocates justice, peaceful resolution of global conflicts, and basic human dignity for all beings as an act of moral conscience and living our faith to serve and uplift humanity.

Great men and women in every culture and community, teach us about character, empowerment, unifying ideas and visions, and prospect of unimagined outcomes when we work in solidarity with others. We remember such souls with great reverence and pride for their wisdom, righteous defiance, struggles to set us free, for being a witness that fairness and justice alone makes it right. Free societies understand the significance of fulfilling mandates based on universal precepts.

SALDEF and others are advancing those visions in a peaceful way and redressing violations of the rights of Sikh Americans and others, insuring justice within the framework of laws and the time-honored traditions that recognize the transcending nature of our times and global culture.

My contributions in this journey are insignificant. I am proud to stand in their light and on the shoulders and wisdom of many and pledge to continue to do what I can to justify your trust and this incredible honor of an Award named after Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind. The task ahead is by no means easy to bring the Sikh community in America into the full sunlight of our constitutional rights and personal responsibilities. Then again, the generations of immigrants that came before us in search of their dreams did not achieve their rightful place in American society by mere wishful expectations. They worked hard, overcame early setbacks, learned about the full power of the American laws and trusted values, and in time earned the support of the business, civic, and faith leaders. The American people and institutions rallied to their just and legitimate concerns. Today, our generation is at its own critical moment. Each of us needs to step forward and support those who are leading us and showing us the proven ways to successful outcomes.

Our power comes from ideas, creative thinking, and sustained efforts; defining our concerns, networking with others, finding innovative and imaginative answers to those concerns. The world is beginning to understand that our growing diversity as the brave new frontier has a tremendous pioneering spirit daring us to strenghten and harness its creative potential to benefit all humanity. We must accept our responsibility in this regard before claiming our rewards.

Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind would be proud of how far the Sikh Americans have come since his struggles almost 90 years ago when his dream to be a proud American citizen met roadblocks and resistance at many levels. His legacy inspires us, his testimony empowers us as we seek new friends and places for our cherished heritage; make bold and visionary investments that enhance the collective human promise; and generously contribute to life, liberty, prosperity and the exciting dreams that we all share and plan to entrust to the future generations.

Any thing less than that is shortsighted and missing our responsibility as the new Americans. Going forward: let the foundation of our faiths, proud traditions, be our guiding light and anchor.

I join all of you in remembering the celebrated legacy of Dr. Thind, and thank each of you, especially my family here and in India, and many who have mentored to my journey as an American and as a world citizen. I feel immeasureably blessed by this distinct honor.

KP Singh . Indianapolis, Indiana USA .





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