Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in America, announces presidential run

Gabbard joins growing field of Democrats taking on Trump in 2020

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, January 12, 2019 – Tulsi Gabbard, the first ever Hindu lawmaker elected to Congress, has announced she is running for the White House in 2020 hoping to succeed President Trump.

“When we stand together, united by our love for each other and for our country, there is no challenge we cannot overcome. Will you join me?”, she said Friday on social media adding the hashtag TULSI2020 and introducing her presidential campaign website tulsi2020.com

The Hawaii Democrat is seen as a progressive rising star. If elected, Gabbard, 37, will be the youngest and the first ever Hindu and woman president in US history.

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The announcement is sure to come as music to the ears of many Indian-Americans, particularly of the Hindu faith. A presidential campaign email sent on Friday night reads: “Tulsi has been a Hindu American leader in the truest sense. From being the first ever member of the US Congress to take the oath on the Bhagavad Gita to fiercely advocating for not only her constituents, but for issues impacting the well-being of Hindus here at home and around the world, Tulsi’s approach to lawmaking and diplomacy has been one guided by dharma and steeped in the spirit of karma yoga”.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat-Hawaii), the first Hindu elected to the US Congress, takes the oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita administered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. January 3, 2019

Gabbard is not an Indian-American; she is an American Samoan who converted to Hinduism early in life.

Her campaign statement intended for her Indian-American, largely Hindu, supporters notes how she has been vocal against any inaccurate and disrespectful presentations of the teachings and traditions of Hinduism in the media and public school textbooks. It adds, “She has unapologetically advocated for civil and human rights – speaking up not only for Hindu minorities, but all people who are suffering”.

An Iraq War veteran, Gabbard currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The email message recognizes “her courageous stance against activism and legislation over the years that has sought to undermine one of the most important relationships our country has: the US-India bilateral partnership”.

Gabbard is entering what could be a crowded democratic field likely to include Indian-American senator Kamala Harris of California who, it is widely believed, will be announcing her own presidential bid in the coming days. And she joins the only woman, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is in the race, thus far.

Also seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president are former Congressman John Delaney of Maryland and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Potential candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and former congressman Beto O’ Rourke of Texas – all with great name recognition – are still weighing bids.

Gabbard has not minced any words in decrying the Trump administration. At a Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill, last November, she bemoaned, “We have seen various acts of violence, we have seen divisiveness and bigotry surrounding us in different parts of our communities and our country…. The victory of knowledge over ignorance and of good over evil cannot come at a more relevant time”, she said.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard lights the ‘diya’ (lamp) at the 2018 Diwali celebration held in the halls of the US Congress. Looking on, from left to right, are: Congressman Ro Khanna; Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation; and White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah. Photo credit: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha

“To me, Diwali reminds us all of our responsibility, each and every one of us, to live in this spirit of Diwali not only once a year, but every single day, the choices that we make in our lives and the choices that we are making here on Capitol Hill, in politics. This way we can always think in the mind-set of how do we put others before ourselves, how can we best be of service to others”.

US lawmakers greeted by overflow crowd at Diwali celebration on Capitol Hill

Gabbard’s campaign email refers to the “possibility of a president who is true to her words, thoughtful in her approach, and resolute in her actions”.

Given Trump’s ongoing re-election bid, she has a long and arduous road ahead.

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