Remarks by President Obama at White House Iftar Dinner

State Dining Room, White House

September 1, 2009


Please, everybody have a seat. Thank you. Well, it is my great pleasure to host all of you here at the White House to mark this special occasion -- Ramadan Kareem.

各位请坐。谢谢大家。我非常高兴能邀请各位来到白宫欢度这个特别的时刻——莱麦丹斋月吉祥(Ramadan Kareem)。

I want to say that I’m deeply honored to welcome so many members of the diplomatic corps, as well as several members of my administration and distinguished members of Congress, including the first two Muslims to serve in Congress -- Keith Ellison and Andre Carson. Where are they? (Applause.)

我在此表示,我感到万分荣幸,因为莅会的有如此众多的外交使节,还有本届政府的几名成员和尊敬的国会议员,其中包括两位最早当选国会议员的穆斯林——基思·埃利森(Keith Ellison)和安德烈·卡森(Andre Carson)。他们在哪里?(掌声)

Just a few other acknowledgements I want to make. We have Senator Richard Lugar here, who’s our Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Where is Dick Lugar? There he is. (Applause.) Representative John Conyers, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. (Applause.) Representative Rush Holt is here. Thank you, Rush. (Applause.) Have we found you a seat, Rush? (Laughter.)

我还要感谢其他几位人士。今天在座的有参议员理查德·卢格(Richard Lugar),对外关系委员会(Foreign  Affairs Committee)资深成员。迪克·卢格在哪里?他在那里。(掌声)。众议员约翰·科尼尔斯(John Conyers),司法委员会(Judiciary Committee)主席。(掌声)众议员拉什·霍尔特(Rush Holt)也来了。谢谢你,拉什。(掌声)你找到座位了吗,拉什?(笑声)

(REPRESENTATIVE HOLT: I’m on my way to the train.) (Laughter.)


I got you.


We also have here -- Secretary of Defense Gates is here. Secretary Gates. (Applause.) Our Attorney General, Eric Holder. (Applause.) And Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius is here. (Applause.)

今天在座的还有国防部长盖茨(Gates)。盖茨部长。(掌声)司法部长,埃里克·霍尔德(Eric Holder)。(掌声)卫生与公众服务部长凯瑟琳·西贝利厄斯(Kathleen Sebelius)也到场了。(掌声)

And most of all, I want to welcome all the American Muslims from many walks of life who are here. This is just one part of our effort to celebrate Ramadan, and continues a long tradition of hosting iftars here at the White House.


For well over a billion Muslims, Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection. It’s a time of service and support for those in need. And it is also a time for family and friends to come together in a celebration of their faith, their communities, and the common humanity that all of us share. It is in that spirit that I welcome each and every one of you to the White House.


Tonight’s iftar is a ritual that is also being carried out this Ramadan at kitchen tables and mosques in all 50 states. Islam, as we know, is part of America. And like the broader American citizenry, the American Muslim community is one of extraordinary dynamism and diversity -- with families that stretch back generations and more recent immigrants; with Muslims of countless races and ethnicities, and with roots in every corner of the world.


Indeed, the contribution of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalog because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country. American Muslims are successful in business and entertainment; in the arts and athletics; in science and in medicine. Above all, they are successful parents, good neighbors, and active citizens.


So on this occasion, we celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan, and we also celebrate how much Muslims have enriched America and its culture -- in ways both large and small. And with us here tonight, we see just a small sample of those contributions. Let me share a few stories with you briefly.


Elsheba Khan’s son, Kareem, made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when he lost his life in Iraq. Kareem joined the military as soon as he finished high school. He would go on to win the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, along with the admiration of his fellow soldiers. In describing her son, Elsheba said, “He always wanted to help any way that he could.” Tonight, he’s buried alongside thousands of heroes in Arlington National Cemetery. A crescent is carved into his grave, just as others bear the Christian cross or the Jewish star. These brave Americans are joined in death as they were in life -- by a common commitment to their country, and the values that we hold dear.

埃尔萨巴·汗(Elsheba Khan)的儿子卡利姆(Kareem)在伊拉克牺牲,为国家献出自己的生命。卡利姆高中一毕业就参了军,后来获得紫心勋章(Purple Heart)和青铜星章(Bronze Star),深受战友们的钦佩。埃尔萨巴在缅怀儿子时说:“他总是希望尽自己的一切力量做出奉献。” 今晚,他与其他成千上万的英烈一起长眠于阿灵顿国家公墓(Arlington National Cemetery)。一轮新月镶刻在他的墓碑上,就如同其他人的墓碑镶有十字架或犹太星的标记一样。这些英勇的美国人虽死犹生,体现了效忠祖国的共同决心,见证了捍卫我们珍视的价值观的共同意志。

One of those values is the freedom to practice your religion -- a right that is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Nashala Hearn, who joins us from Muskogee, Oklahoma, took a stand for that right at an early age. When her school district told her that she couldn’t wear the hijab, she protested that it was a part of her religion. The Department of Justice stood behind her, and she won her right to practice her faith. She even traveled to Washington to testify before Congress. Her words spoke to a tolerance that is far greater than mistrust -- when she first wore her headscarf to school, she said, “I received compliments from the other kids.”

我们珍视的价值观之一是信奉宗教的自由——《宪法第一修正案》(First Amendment of the Constitution)明文规定的一项权利。今天从俄克拉荷马州马斯科吉(Muskogee, Oklahoma) 来这里出席晚宴的纳沙拉·赫恩 (Nashala Hearn)曾在年幼时为维护这项权利表明了自己的立场。当时她所在的学区告诉她不能戴头巾(hijab)上学。她抗议说,这是自己宗教信仰的一部分。司法部(Department of Justice)对他表示支持,她赢得了信奉自己宗教的权利。她甚至远赴华盛顿,在国会作证。她说的一番话说明,宽容之心远远超过了相互间的不信任——当她第一次戴着头巾上学时,她说:“我得到其他小朋友们的赞赏。”

Another young woman who has thrived in her school is Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. She’s not even 5’5 -- where’s Bilqis? Right here. Stand up, Bilqis, just so that we -- (laughter) -- I want everybody to know -- she’s got heels on. She’s 5’5 -- Bilqis broke Rebecca Lobo’s record for the most points scored by any high school basketball player in Massachusetts history. (Applause.) She recently told a reporter, “I’d like to really inspire a lot of young Muslim girls if they want to play basketball. Anything is possible. They can do it, too.” As an honor student, as an athlete on her way to Memphis, Bilqis is an inspiration not simply to Muslim girls -- she’s an inspiration to all of us.

另外一位在学校中茁壮成长的年轻妇女是拜莱盖丝·阿卜杜尔-卡迪尔(Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir)。她身高还不到5尺5寸——拜莱盖丝在哪里?就在这里。拜莱盖丝,请站起来,这样我们——(笑声)——我要让大家知道——她穿着高跟鞋。她身高5尺5寸——拜莱盖丝打破了丽贝卡·洛博(Rebecca Lobo)创下的马萨诸塞州有史以来高中篮球运动员得分的最高记录。(掌声)她最近向一位记者表示:“我真的希望鼓励许多年轻的穆斯林女孩打篮球,只要她们愿意。任何事情都有可能实现。她们也有可能做到。”拜莱盖丝是一名优等生,准备作为运动员去孟菲斯(Memphis)发展,她不仅仅激励了穆斯林女孩,而且激励了我们大家。

Of course, we know that when it comes to athletes who have inspired America, any list would include the man known simply as The Greatest. And while Muhammad Ali could not join us tonight, it is worth reflecting upon his remarkable contributions, as he’s grown from an unmatched fighter in the ring to a man of quiet dignity and grace who continues to fight for what he believes -- and that includes the notion that people of all faiths holds things in common. I love this quote. A few years ago, he explained this view -- and this is part of why he’s The Greatest -- saying, “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams -- they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do -- they all contain truths.”

当然,我们都知道,谈起激励美国奋进的体坛宿将,必然会提到最伟大的拳王(The Greatest)。虽然穆罕默德·阿里(Muhammad Ali)今晚不能与我们共进晚餐,但他的卓越成就值得我们深思。他从一名在拳击场上所向无敌的拳击手成长为一位沉稳庄重、气度不凡的人,为他的信念奋斗不息——其中包括,持各种不同信仰的人都有共同之处。我欣赏他说过的一句话。几年前,他阐述了这个观点——这是他之所以“最伟大”的原因之一——他说:“河流、池塘、湖泊和小溪——名称虽各不相同,但都包含着水。就像各种宗教一样——都包含着真理。”

They all contain truths. Among those truths are the pursuit of peace and the dignity of all human beings. That must always form the basis upon which we find common ground. And that is why I am so pleased that we are joined tonight not only by so many outstanding Muslim Americans and representatives of the diplomatic corps, but people of many faiths -- Christians, Jews, and Hindus -- along with so many prominent Muslims.


Together, we have a responsibility to foster engagement grounded in mutual interest and mutual respect. And that’s one of my fundamental commitments as President, both at home and abroad. That is central to the new beginning that I’ve sought between the United States and Muslims around the world. And that is a commitment that we can renew once again during this holy season.


So tonight, we celebrate a great religion, and its commitment to justice and progress. We honor the contributions of America’s Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives. And we rededicate ourselves to the work of building a better and more hopeful world.


So thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here this evening. I wish you all a very blessed Ramadan. And with that, I think we can start a feast. I don’t know what’s on the menu, but I’m sure it will be good. (Laughter.) Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)