Washington: With Tulsi Gabbard making history by becoming the first Hindu-American to be elected to the US House of Representatives, President Barack Obama on Friday congratulated the Congress woman-elect, who says her doors will always be open to people from her faith.
"The President congratulates Congresswoman-elect Gabbard and wishes her well," Shin Inoyue, a White House spokesman, said when asked about Obama's reaction to the election of the first-ever Hindu to the US House of Representatives.
"As he (Obama) said in his remarks on Tuesday, 'I believe we can keep the promise of our founding -- the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or who you love -- it doesn't matter whether you're black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old, or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight -- you can make it here in America if you're willing to try," Inoyue said.
He was referring to the remarks made by the US President during his victory speech in Chicago.
Ahead of the November 6 election, Obama had personally endorsed Tulsi, 31, as the Democratic party's candidate from Hawaii's second Congressional district. She defeated Republican Kawika Crowley.
In an interview, Tulsi said she greatly appreciated the support she has received from the Hindus and Indian-Americans in her election and the congratulatory messages she has been receiving from them.
"Since I'm a practising Hindu, the more unique concerns of Hindu and Indian-Americans are near and dear to my heart. My door will always be open to them," she said.
However, she refused to answer question on reports that she would be taking oath in the Congress on the holy Bhagwat Gita. "I will address that subject in detail closer to the time of oath-taking."
Gabbard said she immensely appreciated the great support that she received from the Hindu and Indian-American community. "It is especially gratifying to see the younger generation of Hindus so inspired to get involved in trying to make a difference in serving our communities and our country."
"I recently met an Indian man who told me that his teenage daughter had always felt embarrassed about her faith, but after meeting me, she now feels proud. The man told me he felt that my being elected to Congress would give hope to hundreds and thousands of young Hindus in America and that they can be open about their faith, and even run for office, without fear of being discriminated against or attacked because of their religion.
"As a Congressional representative, I hope to be able to play some small role in increasing people's respect, understanding and love for one another despite our differences," Tulsi said.
As a member of Congress, Tulsi said, she will be representing all people of Hawaii, as well as all the people of the country, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, everyone.
"The fact is, people of every religion in our country want the same thing they want elected officials who know they are servants of the people and not special interests.
"They want leaders to help improve the economy, stop wasting our limited resources, protect the environment and ensure that our children will have a bright future," she said.
Born to a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, Gabbard chose to embrace Hinduism as a teenager. Proud of her Hindu religion, she is neither Indian nor of Indian heritage.
Her father Mike Gabbard is a Hawaii State Senator and mother Carol Porter Gabbard is an educator and business owner.
Tulsi was born in Leloaloa, American Samoa, as the fourth of five children of her parents. At the age of two, the family moved to Hawaii, which is also the birthplace of Obama.
At 21, she became the youngest person elected to the Hawaii Legislature. At 23, she was the state's first elected official to voluntarily resign to go to war.
At 28, she was the first woman to be presented with an award by the Kuwait Army National Guard.
Having never visited India so far, Tulsi looks forward to making her first trip to the country as a Congresswoman. "As a Vaishnava, I especially look forward to visiting the holy sites of Vrindavan," she had told earlier.
Her religion, she said, is not an issue for the election, neither it had been a negative factor in her campaign.
Meanwhile, Hindu-Americans continued to welcome the victory of Tulsi in the Congressional elections.
Gabbard's election is particularly inspiring for Hindu students currently studying American politics and aspire for careers in US government, said the Hindu Student Council.
In a joint statement, the United Hindu Front and Kashmir Hindu Foundation said: "Tulsi possesses the humility to respectfully listen to all points of view. She has the necessary experience to handle any challenge, and the courage to make the right decision."