By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
Chicago: The 30th annual dinner gala of Indo-American Democratic Organization (IADO) at Holiday Inn in Skokie on November 15 provided an ideal political campaign platform for the contesting Democratic candidates in the forthcoming primary in the state.
Stalwarts like Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Clerk David Orr, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Clerk of Cook County Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, US Cong-ressman Bill Foster, US Congresswoman Jan Scha-kowsky, Raja Krishnamoorthi, who is running for the office of State Comptroller, State Representative Will Burns, and several others addressed the gathering. Even non-contesting popular Democratic leader like Alderman Ed Smith also spoke eulogizing the services of IADO. About 500 people, including several Indian Americans and Americans attended the celebration.
Delivering the keynote address, Pat Quinn praised the pivotal role played by the IADO in support of political campaigns of Democratic candidates for the past 30 years and the remarkable contribution of the Indian community to the state of Illinois and the country, and said: “We have to work hard to get our economy back to rebuild bridges, buildings, roads and other infrastructure and create jobs. With all the problems, the state of Illinois is moving forward. We have a strong contingent of middle class. We have to work to see to it that no one is left behind. We have movers and shakers on one side and the moved and the shaked on the other side. In between we have many people who need to be helped. The state has good educational facilities. The Indian community is well educated. They are very patriotic people. Together we can do many things,” he said.
Apologizing for being late, he said that he and Senator Dick Durbin were on a visit to a state prison, which was offered to President Barack Obama, who committed to the country to close the Guantanamo detention facility in Cuba and shift the prisons to mainland for their trial. “I met Obama in Washington and offered the Thomson state prison, which is a state-of-the-art super security prison located 150 miles from Chicago, for the relocation of Guantanamo prisoners. A team would visit it and take a decision before the Guantanamo detention facility is closed. By moving the prisoners to the Illinois prison, about 3,000 new jobs would be created,” Pat Quinn said.
He particularly praised Obama, who hailed from the state, and said he was very much concerned about the soldiers who were valiantly fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and protecting people of this great democracy.
Pat Quinn, who is seeking reelection as Governor of Illinois, appealed all to participate in the February elections and vote for the Democratic candidates, including himself.
Earlier, welcoming the gathering, Ram Gajjela, president of IADO, said that as the organization celebrated its 30th anniversary, he would like to remind the audience about the political role it played in support of Democratic candidates. He said: “This has been a very exciting year. Our own Barack Obama is President. We all worked very hard for this extraordinary man’s extraordinary election, calling night after night, knocking on doors and spending nights and weekends in motels in distant states. Both Houses of Congress are in Democratic hands. We worked hard for that too. With the House passing the Health Care Reform Bill we are now just beginning to see what democratic majorities can mean. In Illinois we have moved into a new era with a new Governor - a Democrat many of us have had close contact with over the years - a man of integrity. Both Illinois Houses are securely in Democratic hands. We also worked hard for that.”
Stating that IADO had become one of the most effective and widely acknowledged grassroots political organizations in the state, he said it came a long way to put Democrats in office; it had tackled policy issues of importance to the Indian community like immigration, glass-ceiling, discrimination, healthcare and social security.
Recounting the work done by IADO, he said: “This year we conducted two exciting town hall meetings. Our dear friends, US Representative Jan Schakowsky and State Senator Heather Steans led the one on the health care. US Representative Danny Davis, and another dear friend, Doug Nguyen, deputy regional communications director for Social Security Administration, spoke at the social security meeting and reassured of the future of the Social Security.”
The IADO president also paid compliments to Ram Koduri, former president of IADO for launching the youth internship program, which was being continued for the past seven years.
Expecting that more South Asian Americans would run for political offices and get elected, he said that former IADO president Pramod Shah had just been elected as Trustee of Skokie. “I felt quite choked up as he stood up to take his oath of office from Judge Maria Kuriakose, our former vice president,” Ram Gajjala said and recognized his team of officers.
Stating that she was proud to be an honorary member of the IADO, Lisa Madigan said that the work of the organization during the past 30 years had been impressive. Thanking the Indian community for its support to her and praising the work of IADO in the statewide elections, she said: “A year go we broke the race barrier and changed the history by electing Barack Obama as the President. We did a great campaign. We made a difference. We changed the course. We are capable of bringing a change. We can do it. That is what IADO is all about.”
Claiming that she was proud to be the State Attorney General, she said her office was protecting the rights of the people. “I am able to do all that because of your support. I am in the office for the past 67 months and I am no stranger to you. I draw your attention to the history of IADO that appears on the pages 20 and 21 of the brochure. It is a wonderful document,” she said.
Joined by Ram Gajjela, she conferred honorary membership on State Representative of the 18th District Julie Hamos and presented the Outstanding Community Service Award to Attorney Steven A Crifase.
Earlier, the meeting began with the playing of the American and Indian national anthems and slide show of the 30 years of work by the IADO. Asim Mishra was the master of ceremonies.
Dr. Ashish Sen, vice president of IADO, proposed a vote of thanks.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao