Continuing the tradition of celebrating the rich diversity of religious traditions in the United States, President Barack Obama recently hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House in observance of Ramadan.
The dinner, which breaks the daily sunrise-to-sunset fast observed during Ramadan, was attended by members of the diplomatic corps and Congress, including two Muslim congressmen, as well as leaders and officials from across the U.S. Government.
President Obama said the evening "reminds us of both the timeless teaching of a great religion and the enduring strengths of a great nation."
He noted that Islam, like many faiths, "has always been part of our American family, and American Muslims have long contributed to the strength and character of our country."
In his remarks, Mr. Obama referred to the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. He noted that among the thousands of Americans of many faiths and backgrounds whose lives were cut short by the attacks were "proud and patriotic Muslim Americans." Some were innocent passengers on the planes that crashed; some were workers in the Twin Tower buildings in New York -– "Americans by birth," said President Obama, "and Americans by choice, who crossed the oceans to give their children a better life."
He also spoke of the heroism of American Muslims who were first responders on that fatal day, and who, over the past ten years, have helped protect the nation as police, firefighters and service members, fully aware of, but willing to accept, dangerous risks to help this country.
President Obama said there is only one way to honor those who died in the September 11 attacks and those who serve: "We must be the America they lived for and . . . the America they sacrificed for.
"An America" he said, "where we treat one another with respect and with dignity, remembering that here in the United States there is no 'them' or 'us;' it's just us. . . . An America that stands up for the dignity and the rights of people around the world, whether a young person demanding his or her freedom in the Middle East or North Africa, or a hungry child in the Horn of Africa."
"Put simply," said Mr. Obama, "we must be the America that goes forward as one family. . . pulling together in times of trial, staying true to our core values and emerging even stronger. This is who we are and this is who we must always be."