Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Beginning - President Obama's Council on Faith Based and Neigborhood Partnerships

April 25th

Interviewed by State of Belief - Reverend Gaddy. The Emissary role begins....
(10 minute interview starts after 21.44 minutes)

Invited by the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN to present The Role of Religion in Community Peace Building on May 12th at 1:15 - 2.45 pm.

April 22nd

Held the 1st conference call with representatives of the various Dharmic traditions to share the White House briefing information.

Next meeting scheduled for May 1st.

April 17th

Interviewed by ITV to explain the advisory role.

April 8th - 15th.

Reached out to a larger groups of people in the Dharmic tradions to have their voices included. Participated in the 1st Council call and learnt more about the administrative aspects of the Council.

Initiating Indian Americans Building Communities under the Hindu Collective Initiative to bring together the faith based institutions to develop service oriented infrastructures to serve community needs. IABC needs considerable support from the community to enable it to accomplish its mandate.

Received considerable coverage in India and the Indian-American news media as well as the mainstream papers. It is a historic moment for our community to have 2 Indian Americans, the first Muslim and the first Hindu in the Council.

April 7th

The briefings continued. We have a lot to learn and have our work cut out as we, the New Americans, develop the community governance structure. This is something we will have to do on our own. I am reminded of Sarojini Naidu's quote, "Remember the high responsibility of your desires. No one can give to you what you do not have the capacity to take".

Got calls from many Desi newspapers and tried to explain that I was not going to chant Ved mantras at the White House but this was a Council focused on researching and giving the President and the White House advice on the key tasks they had identified.

Also realized we need more people of Dharmic traditions become part of the task forces as I was the ONLY representative at this time. If not, we need to have our own think tank who can help get the views of a broader voice through me.

April 6th

Enroute to DC on the train, checked my emails and saw the public announcement. Immediately got a call from India Abroad and spoke with Aziz. This was followed by more calls. Reached just when the briefings were starting to a room with over 60-70 people, certainly more than the 25 Council members I had thought I was meeting. And I was the lone person of Dharmic/Hindu faith. I felt I was representing all eastern/dharmic traditions. It was great to meet Eboo Patel, another Indian American (Muslim)

Various agencies came and talked about their programs which the faith based (primarily the Judeo-Christian traditions) and established secular neighborhood partnerships are historically involved with. Realized the Hindus, actually all the Dharmic Traditions, need to understand how the community governance works in America through the Community Service components in the Churches/Synagogues. We can learn from these traditions and leverage their best practices.

April 4th

My tickets booked for the White House briefing. No public announcement as yet...

April 1st

Received a confirmation note confirming the appointment. Waited for the public announcement.....

Understood this initiative as:

The President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is a Council of advisers to the President on issues relating to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Including social service provision, community development, social change and relevant public policy issues. The President’s Council will form Taskforces in order to study in depth key topics and make recommendations to the President, White House staff and members of government.
The Taskforces of the President’s Council will include:
1. Reform of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships,
2. Economic Recovery and Fighting Poverty,
3. Fatherhood and Healthy Families,
4. Inter-Religious Dialogue and Cooperation,
5. Environment and Climate Change,
6. Global Poverty, Health and Development.

The Council does not make recommendations about federal grants, or federal government hiring. Council membership is a one-year term.

March 31st

Got a call from Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of FBNP to ask me if I would join the Council. Of course I said yes.... and then wondered was this for real?????

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