President Obama Hosts an Iftar Dinner


The President:
Thank you. Good evening, everybody. Please have a seat. Let me begin by saying
welcome to all of you. I’m so glad that all of
you were able to attend. I want to acknowledge members
of the diplomatic corps; we have members
of Congress here, including Keith Ellison
and Andre Carson. Where’s Andre? He’s usually not hard
to miss. (laughter) There you go. Leaders from my administration,
and guests from all across our nation. And to all of you, and to Muslim
Americans all across the country and around the world
— Ramadan Kareem. Here at the White House, we now
have a tradition of celebrating the sacred days of
our various faiths. And these are occasions to
reflect on the teachings that so many religions share; to
celebrate the diversity that defines our country; and to
reaffirm one of our most deeply held beliefs, that here in
America and around the world, people should be free to choose
the God that they worship however they choose, to
practice their faiths freely, or to practice no faith at all. For Muslims, Ramadan is
a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate one’s
devotion to God through prayer and through fasting. But it’s also a time for family
and friends to come together — as we do tonight — in a
spirit of love and respect, to renew our obligations
to one another, as well as to renew our
commitment to our neighbors and helping the most
needy among us. For as the Koran teaches,
whoever does an atom’s weight of good, will see its results. Throughout our history, Islam
has contributed to the character of our country, and Muslim
Americans, and their good works, have helped to build our nation
— and we’ve seen the results. We’ve seen those results in
generations of Muslim immigrants — farmers and factory workers,
helping to lay the railroads and build our cities. Muslim innovators who helped
build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped
to unlock the secrets of our universe. Every day, Muslim Americans are
helping to shape the way that we think and the way that we work
and the way that we do business. And that’s the spirit that
we celebrate tonight — the dreamers, the creators whose
ideas are pioneering new industries, creating new jobs
and unleashing new opportunities for all of us. We celebrate entrepreneurs
like Shazi Visram, whose parents came here from
Pakistan and Tanzania to give their children a better life. And as the founder, CEO and
“Chief Mom” of Happy Family — (laughter) — Shazi is a leader
in affordable, organic foods for children —
which makes Michelle very happy. In just seven years, she’s
grown to 58 full-time employees, 75 part-time working moms, and
they’re on track to hit $100 million in revenue
this year. So no wonder she’s been called
a “Rockstar of the New Economy.” (applause) By the way, every time that
they sell one of their products, they contribute to global
efforts to end child hunger. So Shazi is not only just an
outstanding businesswoman, but also a leader that
all of us can emulate. We celebrate innovators
like Aunim Hossain. In one of his first ventures, he
designed a hand-held device to help detect breast cancer. Now, as the creator
of Tista Games, he’s setting his sights on
the video game industry. But Aunim also has
a bigger vision, and that’s harnessing the
talents and energy of hundreds of millions of gamers around
the world to do social good. And he imagines applying the
same high-quality stories and graphics in his games to the
next generation of educational material to help children learn. So we’re very appreciative for
Aunim for the good work that he’s doing. We celebrate pioneers
like Dr. Iya Khalil, whose father came here from
Libya to finish his education — she grew up watching him in
his lab and dreaming of being a scientist herself. Today, she calls herself a
“recovering physicist” — and she puts her talents to
work as an entrepreneur. She co-founded her own
bio-tech research company, which today employs almost
50 people and is a leader in genomic medicine — making
it possible for doctors to prescribe personalized treatment
plans for patients with diseases like cancer, and giving new
hope to people around the world. So we thank Iya for her efforts. So Shazi, Aunim, Iya, and so
many of you who have traveled here tonight — each of you
have traveled your own path, but each of you have also
lived out an American story. You started with an idea —
something no one had done before. You took a leap of faith. And with daring
and determination, you brought your dream to life. And that’s what we Americans
have been doing for more than two centuries. That’s what we do every day
— we work a little harder; we aim a little higher; and we
keep striving to create more opportunity for our children
and future generations. And of course, this isn’t
just the American Dream; it’s the aspiration of
people around the world. It’s the basic human
desire for progress, to find dignity that
comes from work, to give our children
something better. These yearnings for economic
freedom and opportunity, just as much as
political freedom, are at the root of so much of
the change we’ve seen around the world in the past few years —
including in North Africa and in the Middle East. And that’s why, even as we
support citizens seeking to determine their own destiny, a
key part of our engagement with Muslim communities around the
world has to be supporting economic opportunity
and entrepreneurship. So we launched our annual
entrepreneurship summit to spur innovation and business
growth in Muslim communities. I’m going to be attending one
when I go to the ASEAN meeting in Southeast Asia
later this year. In my second term, we’re
going to keep helping young entrepreneurs pursue their
dreams and create opportunities, the kind of prosperity that
can transform lives around the world. Whoever does an atom’s
weight of gold (sic) will see its results. When I look around
the room tonight, beyond the communities
you represent, I see all the profound good
that’s been accomplished. So all of us are seeing the
results of your good work — the opportunities to create for your
colleagues and your communities and for our country. So I want to thank
you for what you do, and for reminding us that our
nation is stronger and more successful when we harness the
talents of all Americans — no matter where we come from,
or what we look like, what our last names
are, or how we pray. So God bless you all. May you and your families
have a blessed Ramadan. And with that, I know people
are hungry — (laughter) — let’s eat. Thank you.

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