January 13, 2011 11:04:41 am
Daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from Punjab,Indian-American Namrata “Nikki” Randhawa Haley proudly recollected her Indian heritage while being sworn in as the first woman and non-white Governor of South Carolina.
“I stand before you today,the proud daughter of Indian immigrants,” Haley said in her inaugural speech on the State House’s south steps on Wednesday.
Top several Republican leaders including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour,a number of Congressmen and a large number of Indian Americans from various parts of the country,and the Indian Ambassador to the US,Meera Shankar,braved some frigid weather to be present during the historic occasion.
“Growing up in rural,small town South Carolina,my family experienced this state and this country at its best. No,not every day was perfect. No,we were not always free from the burdens faced by those who look and sound different,” said Haley who after Bobby Jindal from Louisiana,is only the second Indian-American Governor.
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She is also the first ever Indian-American woman governor in the United States.
“But we counted our blessings,and my parents reminded me and my brothers and sister every day how blessed we were to live in this country. We saw the constant example of neighbours helping neighbours,” she said after being administered the oath by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice,Jean Toal.
“For us,happiness existed in not knowing what we didn’t have,and in knowing that what we did have was the opportunity to better our lives through hard work and strong values,” said Haley who was dressed in bright,white overcoat for the occasion.
Her husband,Michael and their two children Rena and Nalin,were standing by her side during the swearing in ceremony.
“You see,my mother was offered one of the first female judgeships in her native country,but was unable to serve on the bench because of the challenges of being a woman in India. Now she sits here today watching her daughter become Governor of South Carolina,the state she proudly calls her home. When you grow up with a mom like that,the word ‘can’t’ is not in your vocabulary,” Haley said.
“I will always be the proud daughter of immigrants. I will always cherish our family’s experience. And I will always strive in my actions and in my words to make South Carolina a place where all of our children,regardless of race or gender,know that unlimited opportunities for happiness and success await them,” Haley said in her speech.
Haley succeeds Mark Stanford,who has been South Carolina’s Governor for the last eight years.
The day started for Haley,who was born in a Sikh family,but later converted to Christianity,with a prayer service,during which she was asked to “be real and true” when she takes office to help restore trust in government.
“We’ve grown cynical,” said Pastor Pamela Pond of Greenville’s First Presbyterian Church. “We’ve grown lethargic in fear. We’ve come to believe we can’t trust our government officials.”
The Rev Jeff Kersey pastor of Mt Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington urged Haley to return to the faith of the ancestors.
The recent murders at an Arizona Congresswoman’s public event,Kersey said,was evidence of the “greater spiritual and moral depression” facing the country and its leaders.
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