President Obama, Governor Jerry Brown salute Vesak, or “Buddha Day”
Tuesday 3 May 2016
About the President’s message, Aitken — who has been “functioning as ‘secretary general’ for an White House Vesak ad hoc committee of 20 or so Buddhist communities from DC, NY, and California” — writes, “As far as I know, this is the first time in US history when the President has issued a message saluting this great holiday.”
The message, dated April 29, 2016, reads:
I send greetings to all those observing Vesak.
Vesak is a special day for millions of Buddhists to honor the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Buddha. At temples around the world, Buddhists use this time to engage in prayer and reflect on the virtues of wisdom, courage, and compassion. By taking part in these acts of humility, the men, women, and children who uphold the proud traditions of Buddhism contribute to the diversity of cultures and religions that define our common humanity.
As you come together to mark this occasion, I wish you all the best.
[Signed] Barack Obama
Aiken urges you to send him and the president “a brief report and/or photo of your Vesak observance (if your community conducts one). If you can send a photo of someone reading the president’s message before the assembly, that would be ideal. I will forward your reports and photos to the White House staff. From my experience, this kind of feedback has an impact.”
You can email Aiken at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aiken also shared Brown’s message, which is pre-dated May 20:
The State of California is one of the earliest homes to American Buddhists, and Buddhism is one of the world’s great religious traditions, touching the lives of many with its practice of compassion, wisdom and mindfulness.
American Buddhists have played essential roles in the history if this state, from the early Chinese and Japanese immigrants of the 19th century who helped build the railways, defend our country, and cultivate the land. Throughout the State of California, Buddhist communities contribute to the welfare of our society in numerous ways, providing comfort, compassion, encouragement, and wisdom for those facing life’s challenges.
Vesak is a holy day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha, and celebrates the cultivation of wisdom and compassion in our lives. Vesak is celebrated in numerous ways throughout the diverse range of Buddhist communities in our state. I salute the contributions of this state’s Buddhist citizens on Vesak Day.
Regarding Brown’s letter, Aiken adds:
I hope that folks in other states will also reach out to your state, local and federal officials, inviting them to your celebrations (and documenting it!) and getting proclamations and letters of support. These recognition documents are actually quite valuable in getting even more support from political leaders. Whenever you are successful, send me a scanned (or photographed) copy. It really does help!