HONOLULU, Hawaii. Former Honolulu City Councilwoman and Democratic state representative Tulsi Gabbard became the first practicing Hindu to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Hawaii is known as the aloha state. Aloha means heartfelt respect and love for others, regardless of their race or religion.I grew up with a great appreciation for the cultural melting pot that we have here in Hawaii,” Tulsi said. “Although there are not very many Hindus in Hawaii, I never felt discriminated against. I never thought growing up that any other reality existed, or that it was not the same everywhere. My experiences in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, and across the country, showed me firsthand this is not the case. I recently met a man who told me that his teenage daughter felt embarrassed about her faith, but after meeting me, she now feels proud. 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 states that her main motivation to run for Congress is her desire to be a servant-leader. “I learned from an early age that true happiness comes from being of service to others and not just living for yourself,” Tulsi said. “As a teen I began to experience what it meant to find true happiness by working toward a higher purpose.”
Tulsi started helping her dad with his environmental work. She co-founded the Healthy Hawai‘i Coalition, teaching children about caring for the environment and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
“The more I engaged in activities that weren’t just for myself, the happier I became, and the more I wanted to do,” she said.
Seeking to influence society and policies, she ran for the Hawaii State Legislature in 2002. This desire to serve also motivated her to enlist in the Hawaii Army National Guard. She put aside an easy reelection to the State Legislature to join her fellow guardsmen who had been called to the war in Iraq. Later, she served as a legislative aide with Senator Akaka in the U.S. Senate and on the Honolulu City Council.
“This spirit of servant leadership is what I hope to bring to Congress,” Tulsi said.
Tulsi also received the support of President Obama in her race for Congress. “The president also grew up in Hawaii, and shares that aloha spirit that makes Hawaii so special,” Tulsi said. “I'm looking forward to working with President Obama to improve our economy, focus on jobs, and work for the well-being of all of our people.”
Tulsi’s election also makes her one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress.