SPEECH GIVEN BY
Frank F Islam
At the NCAIA 10th Year Anniversary Event
The Voice of the Indian-American Community. A Voice for the American Community.
Distinguished guests, members of the NCAIA family, friends, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for that kind introduction. I want to express my deep appreciation for your hospitality. I want to thank all of you for your warm welcome.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Gisela Ghani for inviting me to deliver this address
It is great to be back with you. Over the years, I have been fortunate to be part of a number of events hosted by the NCAIA. So, I almost feel that I am a part of the organization!
Let me begin by congratulating NCAIA for completing 10 years. It’s a notable milestone. I applaud the leadership of the organization for all of the terrific work you have done over the past decade.
Whether it’s government, business or nonprofit, what makes an organization great is the people associated with it. This is definitely true for the NCAIA. Your leadership deserves much credit for its myriad accomplishments. Let us all give a big round of applause for all of the current and past presidents, chairpersons and other officeholders of the NCAIA.
(Pause and look around the room.)
I have been asked to keep my formal remarks tonight to five to six minutes. In that time period I want to address two distinct topics: NCAIA – the Voice for the Indian-American Community and NCAIA – A Voice of the American Community.
I will start by recognizing NCAIA. In a very short period of time you have become The Voice for the Indian-American Community in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
Ten years is not a lot of time in the life of a community organization. There are many Indian American organizations in this area that are, at least, 20 to 30 years old. Many of these groups exist just for hosting social events — a festival here, and cultural event there.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not against festivals and cultural events. I love them all and attend many.
But, to be the voice of the Indian-American community, an organization has to bring Indian American groups together to stand up and speak out on issues that matter to the Indian-American community. NCAIA has done that.
In my opinion — and it’s based on my observation of the organization’s activities from afar and, at times, up close — there are two areas where the NCAIA has done an exceptional job.
One: you have done an extraordinary job in bringing various Indian-American organizations under one umbrella time and again. I remember one of the NCAIA Republic Day events I attended.
You brought together more than 30 Indian American organizations for that event. It was an impressive accomplishment.
The other day, I visited your website. I was amazed to see that the NCAIA has nearly three-dozen Indian American groups as partners: from the American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin and Capitol Area Telugu Society to the National Federation of Indian American Associations and Virginia Tamil Academy.
That is an astonishingly wide array of groups reflecting the diversity of the area’s Indian American community. Thanks to the NCAIA for forging the alliance among these groups.
The second area where the NCAIA has excelled in the past decade, by my reckoning, is your activism on the US-India bilateral front. Whenever there was an issue affecting US-India relations, I have seen that your group has been on the forefront of it. Whether it’s mobilizing the community, or educating US lawmakers, you are there. I know that several of you worked actively for the passage of the US-India civil nuclear deal eight years ago. Once again, I applaud the commendable job you are doing on that front.
Being in Washington, we have an advantage — I call it geographic advantage — when it comes to playing a positive role in improving bilateral relations. We get to interact with elected representatives of the United States and representatives of India more than our fellow Indian Americans who live in other parts of this nation can. Given this advantage, I encourage the NCAIA to continue to be The Voice of the Indian-American Community here in the beltway and for the hundreds of thousands of Indian-Americans across this great nation.
This brings me to my second topic which is NCAIA – A Voice for the American Community. Let me repeat that, NCAIA – A Voice for the American Community.
In case you missed it, during this presidential election cycle, there have been a lot of negative comments about immigrants from non-European countries and people with non-Christian religious beliefs. Our American community is being frayed and tattered by those who would unite rather than divide us.
In response to this, I want to encourage NCAIA to take the leadership to renewing our American community – to be a leader in making an operational reality and cause of pride for this country and its citizens again.
One way this might be done is by bringing all of those hyphenated groups that exist within the United States together. To name just a few, there are Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Mexican-Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Irish-Americans.
Why not bring those groups together to recognize our common cause and our common commitment and common good as Americans? At the end of the day, we are all immigrants and we are all Americans. All of us should seek a common ground as we have shared goals and shared responsibility.
We need to stand tall and speak out against hatred, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, intolerance, and injustice. Attack on one faith is attack on all faiths. Today we are the victim but tomorrow someone else will be victim. When that happens it will tear apart the harmonious fabric of our nation. All of us need to be united by a common hope and for better tomorrow. All of us need to be active participants in this election as it is the battle of soul of America
A few years ago I proposed having an “Interdependence Day” held on the day before or the day after “Independence Day”- the 4th of July. Interdependence Day would be a day in which we would celebrate our diversity and our oneness – the qualities that make the United States unique in the world.
I don’t know if Interdependence Day is the answer. I do know is that it is time for this country to come together.
I also know that we as Indian-Americans and especially the NCAIA and its members have the strength, talent and the capacity to be The Voice for the Indian-American community and A Voice of the American Community. So, in closing, I ask you to assume that dual role.
We as Indian-Americans would be better off if you do. And, most importantly, so would “We the People.”
Once again, thank you for inviting me to speak tonight. It’s a real honor to be here with you during this celebratory evening.
Thank you and God bless you all.