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Swami Vivekananda

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BERA of California. Today, I rise to celebrate our core values, American values, of religious freedom and tolerance. These are values that our Founders held sacred, and they are core to our Constitution.

In that light, this year across this country and across the globe, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Swami Vivekananda. Born in India, he was known as Hinduism's Ambassador to the West. Many say he was the first Hindu monk to visit the U.S., spreading that same message of religious freedom and tolerance. Today, my friends from the Hindu American Foundation are here in Washington, D.C., for their annual meeting. As they visit Members of this body, they will be carrying that same message of religious freedom and tolerance.

As someone who was raised in a culturally Hindu household, I was taught by my parents to honor and exhibit this same message of respect and tolerance for all religions and faith traditions. That's why, as an adult, I am part of the Unitarian Universalist tradition, a faith tradition that is rooted with our Founding Fathers and includes John Adams as one of its members, and it's this tradition that was embraced by Swami Vivekananda.

So on this 150th anniversary of his birth, let's celebrate his message of religious freedom and tolerance, and let's remember the core values that our Founding Fathers wrote into our Constitution. Let's celebrate our individual freedom of thought and faith, which was captured in this quote by Swami Vivekananda:

Dare to be free; dare to go as far as your thoughts lead; and dare to carry that in your life.

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