On March 17, 2016, ten Iranian American organizations came together to co-host the second community-wide annual Norooz (Iranian new year) reception in Washington, D.C. In alphabetical order, these were the Aryan Hope Foundation, Children of Persia, Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Iranian American Bar Association, Iranian American Community Center, the Iranian American Medical Society of Greater Washington, National Iranian American Council, Pars Equality Center, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, and the West Asia Council.
The event featured live Persian classical music as well as authentic cuisine. Among U.S. Government officials in attendance were Valerie Jarrett, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and Leon Rodriguez, Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security. Numerous officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, as well the Library of Congress attended the event, which featured over 300 guests.
Dr. Alidad Mafinezam, the event's co-organizer and emcee opened the event by stressing that, “We are here as Americans, and the fact that the US and Iran have a fraught diplomatic relationship should not detract from the ability of this distinguished community to establish itself as full-fledged Americans in this lovely country.”
Ms. Jarrett, who was born in Iran to American parents, spoke about her childhood memories of celebrating Norooz in the city of Shiraz. Mr. Rodriguez addressed the common immigrant experience as well as the vibrancy, success, and meaningful contributions that the Iranian-American community make to the multicultural fabric of the United States. Jarrett called “Norooz is a celebration of renewal that unites people from across the globe. Because I was born in Shiraz, Iran, the Norooz festivities are among my earliest and fondest memories as a child. I remember the weather being perfect in Shiraz, and we celebrated and had joyful experiences in my parents’ home, where people brought me gifts- one of my clearest memories as a child.”
Upon complimenting the Iranian-American community, Director Rodriguez said “The story of immigration is a story often of the sufferings that we leave behind in the countries that we came from. But it is also a story of the hopes and dreams that we have here. And [they are] hopes and dreams that don’t just speak one language, don’t just look one way, don’t just pray to one God, don’t just come from one place. In fact, it is the whole world that brings its talent, its energy, and its love here.”
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