March 19, 2013, Washington, D.C. - On March 14, 2013, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), in conjunction with Congressman Michael M. Honda (D-CA/17th), Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA/4th)VA), Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA/10th), and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY/12th) hosted a Nowruz reception for members of Congress and congressional staff on Capitol Hill. In attendance were eleven members of Congress, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA/12th), as well as more than a hundred congressional staff and special guests.
Congressman Michael Honda
PAAIA’s annual Nowruz reception on Capitol Hill is part of its broader effort to celebrate and foster greater understanding of Iranian culture, and to project an accurate and positive image of the Iranian American community. Participants in attendance had an opportunity to learn about Nowruz and Persian culture and heritage.
PAAIA's Community Relations/NexGen Liaison Adrienne Mahsa and her mother with PAAIA's haft seen table.
The evening’s program was kicked off by Congressman Honda, who highlighted his efforts in collaboration with PAAIA to introduce and pass the first resolution in Congress in honor of Nowruz. “I wish Iranian Americans, the people of Iran and all those who observe this holiday, eidet mubarak,” said the congressman.
“I would also like to thank the PAAIA for setting up this event,” explained Congressman Forbes, a co-sponsor of the 2009 Nowruz resolution. “Celebrations like Nowruz provide an opportunity to teach the American people about the rich cultural history of the Iranian people.”
Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN/7th) also conveyed his appreciation for Nowruz and the Iranian American community. “Nowruz also marks a time to celebrate the contributions of Iranian Americans to all aspects of our society, from medicine and business, to government and nonprofits.” Carson went on to congratulate Cyrus Habib on his election to the Washington State legislature and encouraged more Iranian Americans to run for public office.
Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA/29th) was introduced by PAAIA board member Pouria Abbassi as a friend of the Iranian American community of Los Angeles. Cardenas praised the Iranian American community as “important, not self-important, but important in how it gives back,” and went on to say that “the minute [Iranian Americans] hit this soil, [they] help to build bridges.”
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
Another topic of discussion throughout the course of the evening was the first ever exhibition of the Cyrus Cylinder in the United States, which coincides with this year’s Nowruz celebration. House Democratic leader Pelosi expressed her excitement over the exhibition, which is currently on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution and will later travel to her district and be displayed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
PAAIA’s Executive Director, Saghi Modjtabai, announced that Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA/33rd) and Peter Roskam (R-IL/6th) were planning on introducing a bipartisan resolution acknowledging that the Cyrus Cylinder has, over the centuries, come to symbolize one of the first documents on human rights.
The special guest of the evening, Dr. Norman Sandridge, Associate Professor of Classics at Howard University as well as Fellow in Leadership Studies and Greater Washington Outreach at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, spoke eloquently about the historical legacy of Cyrus the Great and how he has long been a subject in global conversation concerning what it means to be a “great” leader. “For over 25 centuries, since the fashioning of the Cyrus Cylinder, the figure of Cyrus has been a source of inspiration, instruction, and awe,” explained Dr. Sandridge.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier and her Chief of Staff Cookab Hashemi
The reception continued until late in the evening. Guests enjoyed Persian cuisine, and also had the opportunity to view PAAIA’s special edition of the Shanameh. PAAIA would like to thank the many volunteers who made the evening a success, as well as all the members of Congress and their staffs who joined us for this special event. Other members in attendance were: Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD/4th), Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ/8th), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX/18th), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY/12th), Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY/5th), and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA/14th). All of them spoke highly of the Iranian American community and its contributions to the economic, social, and cultural tapestry of the United States.
For more pictures of this event, click here.
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