Nowruz Commission’s First Birthday: Second Annual Gala Dinner
More than four hundred elegantly attired diplomats, dignitaries and guests celebrated the ancient tradition of Nowruz and the Nowruz Commission’s first anniversary at the Library of Congress across from the nation’s Capitol on March 17. Special highlights of the celebration were a message from President Barack Obama delivered by Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett and a letter addressed to President Obama from President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan expressing support for the Nowruz Commission read by the Kazakh Ambassador to U.S. His Excellency Erlan Idrissov.
Representing President Obama, Valerie Jarrett recalled her fond memories of spending the first five years of her life living in Shiraz, Iran, and recited the recent heroic movements for freedom and reforms in the Middle East. “This year, the spirit of Nowruz –of new days and new beginnings- has taken on an even greater significance. Nations are transforming before our own eyes. People across the Middle East and North Africa, who for generations have known only authoritarian rule, are taking their first, tentative steps towards democracy. President Obama is a firm believer in the promise of this moment, and in the very real opportunity it presents for a better way of life to take root in these societies.”
Valerie Jarrett noted the significance of the role of the people of Iran in recent freedom movements. “This season of change actually began two summers ago, in the birthplace of Nowruz – Iran. The core principles that we stand for were demanded by demonstrators in Azadi Square, foreshadowing the protests that changed the world in Tahrir Square. The United States supports their ongoing quest for justice, accountability, access to information, and political and economic opportunity”.
The Nowruz Commission’s significant role in public diplomacy was recognized by the President of Kazakhstan, His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his letter to President Obama expressing his support for the Nowruz Commission. His letter was presented by Kazakh Ambassador to the United States and a co-founder of the Nowruz Commission, His Excellency Erlan Idrissov.
In his opening remarks to an audience composed of ambassadors, diplomats, senior military officers, government representatives, business and community leaders and artists gathered to share in the rite of spring, Commission Chairman and co-founder Nasser Kazeminy noted that the origin of Nowruz may be shrouded in the mists of legends, but “its philosophy is clear and universal” and “can be encapsulated in just thirty letters: good thoughts, good words and good deeds.” Goodness, he said, “transcends geographical boundaries and cultures” and is “the prerequisite for a purposeful life.” Befitting the setting of the Nowruz celebration in the Library of Congress, established by President Thomas Jefferson, Chairman Kazeminy chose words from another President, Abraham Lincoln, whose timeless wisdom continues to inspire all of us. “When I do good,” he said, “I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion.”
Gissou Kian, President of the Nowruz Commission, echoed Chairman Kazeminy’s sentiments, noting that “the freedom to do good belongs to all mankind” and the Commission exists to “promote the renewal of friendship among cultures, the spirit of giving and empowering people to better their own lives and the lives of others.”
Also addressing the Nowruz celebrants with words of welcome and support for the values and mission of the Commission were California Congressman Ed Royce and the Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington.
Although the Commission has been in existence for only one year, its international impact is stunning as the number of countries choosing to affiliate with the Commission continues to increase. Ambassadors and diplomats of the highest order attending the formal dinner and multicultural program represented the countries of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine as well as members of the Iranian community in the United States.
Celebration of the Nowruz Commission’s first birthday took place a few days before Nowruz 1390 at the Coolidge Auditorium with a mesmerizing performance of “Kobyz”, an ancient stringed Kazakh instrument played by master Kobyz player Yerbolat Mirazaliev followed by the spectacular performance of the Silk Road Dance Company with its colorful costumes and beautifully choreographed traditional dances from the Silk Road countries.
Nowruz Commission co-founders His Excellency Erlan Idrissov and The Honorable Bijan R. Kian called Yerbolat Mirzaliev, Dr. Kamran Khavarani, along with Hamid Rahmanian and his wife Melissa Hibbard to the stage to recognize their significant contributions to keeping Nowruz traditions alive. Hamid Rahmanian is the winner of a global competition sponsored by the Noruwz Commission in its effort to select a logo representing the spirit of Nowruz. His winning design will be presented to the Commission’s board of directors for adoption as the Commission’s official brand and logo. Rahmanian is an internationally recognized graphic artist and film maker who lives in New York City.
Chairman Kazeminy chose the Commission’s first anniversary to announce the selection of new members to the Board of Directors: His Excellency Dr. Ashraf Ghani, former Finance Minister of Afghanistan; Professor Kamoludin Abdullaev of Tajikistan; Mr. William Veale representing Kazakhstan; Mr. Qubad Talabani representing the Kurdistan Regional Government; and Mr. Ekim Alptekin from Turkey. In addition, he announced the appointment of Sir Eldon Griffiths, former member of the British Parliament, His Excellency Dussen Kasseinov, President of Turksoy and former Minister of Culture for Kazakhstan, Mr. Darkan Nurmangambet, President of Kazakh-American Association, Mayor Nowandish of Kabul and Mayor Taraki of Herat, Afghanistan to the Advisory Board of the Nowruz Commission. Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup, is Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Nowruz Commission.