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Ishwar Singh Deilvers Invocation at Republican Convention





Sikh-American Sardar Ishwar Singh, president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida (based in Orlando) delivered an invocation on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, at 7:00 pm, at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, USA.

Ishwar Singh owns a small business called Industrial Scan, Inc, in Orlando, Florida, and is an engineer by training, having immigrated to the US from Punjab in 1970 to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering.

He began his invocation on the second day of the Republican convention, by declaring: "Let us pray," and noting that "Almighty God, Waheguru -- we call you many names, but you are One."

"Give your divine hand over all the delegates and candidates as they help steer the future of our great nation," he said. "Remind us of our purpose to love and serve one another and create a more peaceful world."

He continued: "We ask for blessings unto all leaders as they work for the common good. Give all who govern this land humility and courage, integrity and compassion."

He also invoked the blessings of God to "please release each one of us from ego so that we may serve selflessly, and help us remember that we belong to one family."

He called on the "Almighty to keep watch over our nation, protect those who work tirelessly, day and night to ensure our safety and our freedom. Protect our children of the Gulf Coast and give them grace in weathering the storm."

He concluded with “Nanak naam chardi kalaa … tere bhaaney sarbat da bhallaa“ - "In the name of God we find everlasting optimism -- Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh -- Almighty God, bless us all," he added.



[Based on report by Aziz Haniffa. Edited for]

August 30, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Kanwal Prakash Singh (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA), August 30, 2012, 6:10 AM.

Invited to be a part of one of the largest political gatherings with a nationwide audience and far-reaching worldwide significance is a landmark honor. To be asked to offer an invocation at such a national gathering is a historic first. Sardar Ishwar Singh received a thunderous applause as he walked to the podium to deliver the Invocation, and sent a message that Sikh-Americans are an integral part of this nation and the new cultural and spiritual expressions that are the sacred heritage of American and global ethnic and faith landscapes. Rising past the politics and unfortunate experiences of Sikhs since 9/11, we must imagine the ripple effect and power of inclusion at major forums and venues. We can also imagine as a result of our individual and collective efforts and commitment, undreamed-of new doors, honors, and opportunities awaiting Sikh-Americans. In time, the darkness of unfounded stereotyping, unprovoked violence, bullying in schools and verbal harassment may surrender to the light, hope and reassurance of a new day that we are all Americans, all citizens of one world, worthy of dignity, respect, and an honored place at the table. That to me is the real blessing and significance of the presence of a Sikh invocation at the Republican National Convention last night. The Sardar looked dignified and distinguished and made us feel proud. We are grateful to those who made this symbolically proud and incredible national moment possible. This is good news and a welcome blessing along the Sikh-American journey in our brave new world. We celebrate this moment with humility and thanksgiving and pray to draw inspiration to strive even harder to earn our place as a people with so much to offer to "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" for all of God's Children.

2: Yuktanand Singh (USA), August 30, 2012, 8:54 AM.

It is only proper to be supportive and to avoid criticizing. I agree with all the praise given above. I read Valerie Kaur's perspective and I strongly agree that the visuals matter. But the presentation matters also. There is a thing called 'World Class'. We fail miserably in that sector. How many times are we given an opportunity to be on national television? Do we still think that the best person to represent us in the world would be our jathedar from Amritsar? A respected leader is not always the best person for PR and for the media. When will we learn to be world class on public television?

3: Mahanjot Sodhi (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), August 30, 2012, 8:57 AM.

Although it was a good gesture on the part of GOP to have invited a Sikh to the RNC, I see this as another opportunity missed to introduce Americans to what Sikhs are about! Not to sound like a cynic, but couldn't they have chosen a Sikh who was a bit more eloquent and articulate in English as Ishwar Singh seemed to fumble at least a few times during his presentation, besides making it quite clear during its course that the English language wasn't his cup of tea. There are hundreds of thousands of Sikh-Americans who're capable of doing a far better job than this gentleman. Sadly, in my humble opinion, the brief speech fell way short of the expectations we all of it!

4: Yuktanand Singh (USA), August 30, 2012, 8:59 AM.

In my honest opinion, Ishwar Singh appeared most dignified. But the presentation was grade-school level, as someone with an accent who appeared to be searching for a tele-prompter instead of praying, someone who needed notes to read a few words. In fact, in America, grade school kids do better than us old Sikhs. Did we have no American-born young Sikh in Florida? I did not agree with everything in "Passing on The Baton" (Daily Fix, August 13, 2012) and the comments that followed that article. But after watching this invocation, I see that we did not learn much from that series of articles. I hope Ishwar Singh ji does not take it as personal criticism. I am no better myself, but I must say that we continue to drop the baton.

5: Sandeep Singh Brar (Canada), August 30, 2012, 10:58 AM.

Forget about 'Dropping the Baton', this was yet another case of 'Not Passing the Baton'. Great opportunity to show millions on television that Sikh-Americans are a community that have been here for over a 100 years in North America, and what do we continue to do - present ourselves as immigrants with broken English rather than full-fledged citizens. About as painful as watching all those Grand Poobahs ruin the Wisconsin Memorial Service in the gymnasium by crowding the stage and sticking their face in the camera as if it was some televised mela from the pind.

6: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, USA), August 30, 2012, 11:28 AM.

Ouch, again! I'm so sorry to say this but the "media happy" clowns in our community need some serious introspection on who should go in front of the media.

7: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, California, USA), August 30, 2012, 11:40 AM.

After listening to the video and reading the criticisms, I too am baffled. A new generation of Sikh-Americans claims to have stepped up in the leadership roles. Valarie Kaur and possibly others helped in preparing S. Ishwar Singh for this moment. He missed the opportunity to convey the Sikh message when he fumbled to explain the most important line of the Sikh ardaas, which he quoted nevertheless: *Nanak naam chardi kalaa tere bhaaney sarbat da bhalla* -- "Says Nanak: In Thy Name we seek ever-rising optimism, and in Thy will, O Lord, May peace and prosperity come to one and all." First of all, our community does not know that this is the only place where the Sikh Panth has used the "signature line" of "Nanak", the most authoritative symbol used by all the Sikh Gurus in the Guru Granth Sahib and the Sikh Panth (only once in the Ardas!) to claim the authority of the Guru-Panth in the real sense. The American Panth has failed miserably - again. I remember very well how I myself used to participate in such events in the early 1980s in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in City Council meetings. The elite group of the Sikh Society of Calgary used to accompany me to such meetings. We were way ahead of all these PR efforts and participation in interfaith gatherings and police training seminars. I moved to Toronto in 1987 to start my doctoral work at the University of Toronto. Even there, I participated in a number of such activities. T. Sher Singh himself used to play that role very effectively. I have been in America since 1992 and I participated in a number of interfaith meetings in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Sikh-Americans need to be more cautious on such occasions. An Sikh from the 3HO, for example, could have done a better job. Sikh-Canadians are way ahead in this regard, including in the political arena.

8: Manbir Banwait (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), August 30, 2012, 2:56 PM.

Regardless, the man did a fine job. Y'all think you can do better ... then go do it.

9: Gur Singh (Chicago, Illinois, USA), August 30, 2012, 3:24 PM.

The commenting above by some readers made me listen to the speech made by the gentleman. It was a very calm and composed brief appearance with one avoidable stumble. Overall, a pretty good job. In the end, my request to each one of us is that we are a small community, let us learn to live together and support each other, instead of always being nosy. These minor stumbles are not at all representative of an entire community ... in any community. May we all have more courage to fight the weaknesses inside us.

10: G.C. Singh (USA), August 30, 2012, 5:05 PM.

I think it was Monday morning that I saw the news about a Sikh being invited to give the invocation at the convention and him telling a news agency that he will take granthis from the gurdwara and do kirtan at the venue. I immediately called the gurdwara at 8 am and got the phone number for S. Ishawar Singh whom I was finally able to contact around 9 am. He explained to me that a granthi will do the small ardaas and I will say a few words in English. I explained to him the meaning and the context of the invocation and requested him that some articulate young Sikh, born and brought up here, with powerful oratorical skills and a well written message signifying the core Sikh values, should be our front man at the podium. He said all young men here are without turbans. I told him that I could help and immediately contacted Prabhjot Singh of the Sikh Coalition and gave him his contact information but I do not know what transpired after that. S. Ishwar Singh looked dignified, but he fumbled badly. I believe it was another missed opportunity.

11: N. Singh (Canada), August 30, 2012, 7:29 PM.

Wouldn't it have been cool if we could have sent a dastaar-wearing female instead! After all, Sikh women are the daughters of Guru Gobind Singh and the biological daughters of Sardars as good as, or better in some cases than, the sons of Sardars. Now what a message to the world that would have sent about Sikhi!

12: R. Singh (Canada), August 30, 2012, 10:21 PM.

I heartily agree with Yuktanand Singh and Mahanjot Sodhi on this one. When are we going to learn? The visual media is unforgiving. In order to be taken seriously, we need to make a serious effort to portray ourselves as a savvy, informed community which has a lot to offer, especially considering the fact that Sikhs have been on the continent for a century ... and have the ability to tell their own story!

13: R. Singh (Canada), August 30, 2012, 10:32 PM.

We shouldn't be limiting ourselves to only those spokespersons who wear dastaars.

14: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingom), August 31, 2012, 3:24 AM.

Why weren't the professionals from the Sikh Coalition, Saldef, etc. brought forward by Ishwar Singh?

15: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), August 31, 2012, 6:56 AM.

Still waiting to be impressed by our spokespersons. Not enough class, not enough creativity - not enough finesse in everything they do ... Why? Because they refuse to be Sikhs - refuse to be learners.

16: Navjot Singh (England), August 31, 2012, 7:08 AM.

Cringe-worthy! What a lost opportunity! Why can't Sikh-Americans solicit the help of media savvy Sikhs such as Waris Alhuwalia?

17: Mahanjot Sodhi (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), August 31, 2012, 7:18 AM.

R.Singh ji (#12 & 13): The dastaar that was bestowed on us by the Tenth Master is the one that makes a Sikh look like Sikh, and usually that is what comes under targeted attacks from racist individuals - just like in the massacre in Wisconsin. How many non-turbaned Sikhs do you know or have heard of who have born the brunt of reprisals after 9/11? I could bet - perhaps none! So to say that we should be using spokespersons in this context who don't wear dastaars, in my humble opinion, reflects a bit of irony, especially if seen in the aftermath of the Wisconsin tragedy. Sikhs have enough dastaar-wearing numbers in each and every province of the US who could portray us (as you said) as a savvy and informed community that we are. The task at hand is for the ever willing "media happy" clowns in our community to do some serious introspection to see if they're fit to represent us on stages where the stakes are high, and if there's even an iota of doubt in their minds or conscience than to get in touch with our advocacy institutions to get assistance in selecting the right individuals.

18: Gurinder Singh (San Diego, California, U.S.A.), August 31, 2012, 9:27 AM.

Let us create tools, so each of us can represent the Sikh philosophy at every level. I can tell you from my experience at interfaith gatherings, it is not easy to convert a Sikh prayer into an invocation, that we can share with the larger audience. We have Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh ji's and Bhai Gurdas' bani, but it still takes a lot of work to create an appropriate prayer for the occasion. Let us create a selection of prayers, appropriate to the occasion, by doing some research and share them with the Sikh sangat. Media savvy, please share the tips. We all need to be media savvy. We might not always have the time to draw on a resource. Make youtube videos, share with all.

19: Harry (Willowbrook, Illinois, USA), September 01, 2012, 2:38 PM.

Until we start doing our Sikh services in English at the gurdwaras, we will always have people who will have a hard time communicating with society at large. It seems that the gurdwaras are only serving people freshly off the boat.

20: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, Washington, U.S.A.), September 03, 2012, 11:50 AM.

You guys are being too critical of Ishwar Singh. He did a fine job, except for a minor stumble at the end. He appears very dignified.

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