Good evening and welcome. Tonight is part of a rich tradition of celebrating the holy days of many faiths and the diversity that defines the United States. These celebrations bring people of different faiths together, before our Maker, to reaffirm our obligations to one another.
Ramadan is also a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.
Over the course of our history, religion has flourished in America because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose — including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains a nation where peoples of different faiths coexist peacefully with mutual respect for one another.
America is strengthened by millions of Muslim Americans. Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came to forge their future in America. They became farmers and merchants, worked in mills and factories. They helped lay the railroads. They helped to build America. They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built America’s first mosque on the prairie of North Dakota. And perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in America — still in use today — is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In the end, we remain “one nation, under God, indivisible.” And we can only achieve “liberty and justice for all” if we live by that one rule at the heart of every great religion, including Islam — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
To the millions of Muslim Americans across the United States and the more than one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a time of reflection and a time of devotion. It is an occasion to join with family and friends in celebration of a faith known for its diversity and a commitment to justice and the dignity of all human beings. So to you and your families, Ramadan Kareem.
Let us enjoy our Ramadan dinner!