March 21, 2012, Washington, D.C. – On March 20, 2012, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), in conjunction with Congressman Michael M. Honda (D-CA) and Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), hosted a Nowruz Reception for members of Congress and congressional staff on Capitol Hill. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) also attended the event along with over 100 congressional staffers. Numerous prominent Iranian Americans, including Mr. Faryar Shirzad, Global Head of the Office of Government Affairs (OGA) for Goldman Sachs and former Deputy National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, Richardson, Texas City Council Member Amir Omar, and Author and Poet Roya Hakakian, also attended the event.
Though the event celebrated Nowruz and the first day of spring, the broader goal of the reception was to foster a better understanding of the Iranian culture and heritage and project an accurate and positive image of the Iranian American community throughout the United States. The beautiful Haft Seen that was set for the guests prompted numerous conversations about the ancient history of Iran and how Nowruz has and continues to be a time of peace, unity, and new beginnings by those who celebrate it in Iran and throughout the world. It was clear from conversations that ensued that the positive dialogue between the guests was providing the basis for better understanding and collaboration between the Iranian American community, PAAIA, and members of Congress.
The evening’s program was kicked off by Congresswoman Edwards who spoke about the need for unity and friendship among all of those living in this country and the importance of ensuring that the Persian culture and Iranian American community in the U.S. be appropriately celebrated and respected.
Congressman Honda followed these remarks by highlighting his efforts, in collaboration with PAAIA, to introduce and pass the first resolution in the U.S. Congress in honor of Nowruz. The resolution was introduced in March of 2009 and passed the U.S. Congress in March of 2010. “
“It was an honor to host the very first PAAIA Nowruz reception this past week in Washington. I enjoyed learning more about the Iranian American culture, Nowruz and meeting many of the great Iranian American community leaders,” remarked Congressman Honda after the event. “Nowruz allowed us to take a moment to reflect on our core common American values and bond through our different, but yet paralleled histories. I am already looking forward to next year’s reception.”
Congressman Forbes also conveyed his appreciation for Nowruz and the many contributions Iranian Americans have made to American society. He explained how he has welcomed the appointment of Iranian Americans to his staff on Capitol Hill since his election to Congress in 2000.
Following the Congressmen, the special guest of the evening, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Professor & Director of the Roshan Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, spoke eloquently about the historical significance of Nowruz and explained that Nowruz, literally meaning “new day”, celebrates the arrival of spring and occurs on the vernal equinox.
The Reception, which continued till late in the evening, was one of PAAIA’s many efforts to not only have the voice of Iranian Americans heard in the halls of Congress, but to ensure that the Iranian American culture and people are positively and effectively portrayed throughout the United States. For pictures of this event, click here.