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Greg Ballard, Mayor of Indianapolis visits The Sikh Temple (Acton Road), Indianapolis


Mayor Greg Ballard visits Sikh Temple in Indianapolis

Kanwal Prakash Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA
October 5, 2009

Indianapolis Mayor and Mrs. Greg Ballard were given a warm reception and honored at The Sikh Temple (Acton Road) by The Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis on Sunday, October 4, 2009. Mayor and Mrs. Ballard were accompanied by their son Greg, Anne Kyle, and staff member Douglas Hairston. Representatives from The American Red Cross, faculty members from Franklin College, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, and others were in the audience of several hundred Sikhs from throughout Central Indiana who attended the Sunday worship at the Temple.


The first-term Republican Mayor, a distinguished U.S. Marine and retired Lieutenant Colonel, is deeply committed and passionate about the growing diversity in central Indiana and has been reaching out to ethnic, cultural, and faith communities in the Metropolitan area with genuine excitement. For him, they represent rich traditions, cultures, talents and experiences, and unique resources; and identifying, understanding, appreciating, celebrating, and mainstreaming these assets, tapping into their vitality, is good for the future of our City and Nation. Mayor and Mrs. Ballard are a welcome presence at many ethnic, Asian, and international festivals and celebrations. The Mayor often enthusiastically reminds us that he would like to see more of them: an Indian (Asian) Festival next year to be added to the already established Greek, Italian, Irish, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, International Festival, Penrod Arts Fair and other arts and cultural celebrations, and recently introduced Chinese, Asian, Native American festivals. The Mayor is hoping, in the not too-distant future, to add Cricket to the Hoosier sports pastime, adding another world-class sport in Indianapolis, a City recognized and often promoted as the Amateur Sports Capital of the Nation. During his remarks at The Sikh Temple, Mayor Ballard invited the Hoosier Sikhs to be a part of the Indian (Asian) Festival when that is organized.

For our Mayor, enlarging our cultural tapestry is an act of faith and recognition that diversity is our new frontier of great opportunity with undreamed-of rewards, including attracting the brightest and best, many new businesses, and the magnificent arts from around the world to make Indianapolis their future home and favorite welcome destination. We see this as a welcome sea-change: the winds of culture freely flowing through the “Crossroads of America.”

Following a very warm greeting by The Sikh Satsang leadership and friends, Mayor Ballard proudly wore a beautiful blue Sikh turban, as a mark of respect to the Sikh tradition of covering one’s head at Sikh worships before entering the Congregation Hall. The Mayor’s wife, Winnie, originally from the Philippines, covered her head with a rich brocaded green scarf. As they entered, the Ragi Jatha of Bhai Kartar Singh Anand (New Delhi) was performing Shabad Keertan.

Jasvir Singh Lalli, President of The Sikh Satsang, welcomed Mayor and Mrs. Ballard, others guests and Hoosier Sikh Americans gathered for this occasion. Following that, KP Singh, a long-time resident of Indiana, volunteer coordinator of the program, gave a few highlights of the Sikh faith tradition, philosophy and practice, and provided information on the Sikh American community in the USA and Indiana (see attached: text of notes about faith).

In his enthusiastic introduction of Mayor Ballard, KP described him as a hands-on leader who is less concerned about his own political future or personal popularity but remains more intensely focused on first serving the people. Our Mayor is passionate about diversity in all its colorful splendor; deeply committed to tapping into the assets, pioneering spirit, and innovative energy that each immigrant brings to our beloved City and the Nation. He has a wonderful partner in his wife Winnie to advance this passion. We welcome this enlightened spirit and message.

KP also reminded Mayor Ballard of the special challenges that Sikh Americans have faced since 9/11 because of their faith-mandated articles of faith, among them their turbans and beards that have led many, based entirely on physical appearance, to mistakenly identify Sikhs with the terrorist in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has unfortunately led to many cases of workplace discrimination, verbal harassments, unprovoked violence, and hate crimes against them. KP asked Mayor Ballard that we would like to see all barriers removed that today prevent Sikhs Americans to serve in law-enforcement agencies, public transport, and in the U.S. Armed Forces with their sacred articles of faith. We are Americans, America is our home, and we are in search of our rightful place and opportunity to serve at every level and in every field.

KP added that we are very appreciative that Mayor Ballard lives and honors diversity and has come to honor us as a friend and as the distinguished Mayor of an All-American City. In our joyous response to what his leadership and visit means to us, from this day we are happy to embrace our honored guests as Mayor Greg “Singh (lion)” Ballard and his wife as Mrs. Winnie “Kaur (princess)” Ballard. The audience gave their enthusiastic approval to this idea with several Jakaras (the Sikh acclamations of joyful exuberance): Bolay so nihaal, Sut Siri Akal: They are immeasurably blessed who proclaim the Name of the Lord as Eternal Truth.(see attached the full text of introduction).

Mayor and Mrs. Ballard were presented, on behalf of The Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis, the traditional Siropa (Sikh religious scarf of honor) by Giani Pritam Singh, a ceremonial Sikh sword (as a symbol of righteous defiance and self-defence), a beautiful coffee-table book, The Sikhs by Khushwant Singh and Raghu Rai, signed by Gianijee, Jesse Lalli (President), Avtar Singh and Maninder Walia (Trustees of The Sikh Satsang). Gianijee was assisted by Jesse Lalli, Sonya Gill (a designated Natural Helper, Immigrant Welcome Center), and Nachhatar Singh (Vice President). Mayor Ballard, on behalf of his wife and his own, graciously accepted the special gifts, honors, and thanked the leadership and congregation for their generosity, warm reception, and friendship.


A big surprise of the moment was a Lifetime Sewa Plaque presented by Mayor Ballard to Harpreet Sandhu, past President and current Trustee of Satsang. Giani Pritam Singh presented a Siropa to Harpreet. Harpreet was being recognized by The Sikh Satsang (Congregation) of Indianapolis for his years of service to The Hoosier Sikh community, for his involvements in various civic, cultural, and religious Sikh community outreach efforts. He has actively supported and participated in The Interfaith Hunger Initiative, Asian American Alliance’ annual Race for All Races, annual Spirit & Place Festival programs, Interfaith celebrations and forums, the annual United Way of Central Indiana-Indianapolis Mayor’s Community Fair on Monument Circle commemorating 9/11, and negotiating the future site of The Sikh Temple and cultural and educational campus in Indianapolis.


Mayor Ballard in his remarks acknowledged the good things that Hoosier Sikhs have been involved in since they arrived in the City more than 42 years ago. Mayor Ballard had studied the notes about the Sikh faith and complemented the community on their generous support of worthy causes and their spiritual foundation that advocates the values of equality, justice, unity and universality and defense of individual dignity and human rights of all God’s children. He saw in the commandments of Sikh faith and tradition of Seva (selfless service) as lessons for others. He challenged the gathering that we must work together and make our City a more special place for future generations. (see attached: the full text of Mayor’s remarks).


Mayor Ballard’s visit is a part of The Hoosier Sikh American community’s continuing efforts:
. To know our leaders
. To understand our rights and responsibilities as Americans
. To be actively involved in faith-based initiatives
. To share our concerns and special challenges; our heritage and experiences
. To mainstream our interests, talents, visions, and put them to service
. To know our community culture, institutions, and opportunities
. To learn about and contribute to the growing ethnic, cultural, and spiritual diversity


Throughout America and around the world, the Sikh community in Diaspora is engaged in many ways and at many levels to serve, innovate, and build a better future. They are increasingly interfacing their dreams and traditions with the communities and nations that are their new homes; adding their rich culture and heritage to the tapestry of ideas, experiences and visions, hopes and dreams, assets and strengths to create global prosperity and peace.

In Indianapolis, we are determined to become more responsible and dependable partners, enthusiastic participants, and engaged and enlightened citizens making a difference to the life, opportunities, and the freedoms we cherish as Hoosiers and world citizens. We must earn acceptance, friendship, and trust of our leaders and neighbors by dispelling ignorance and unfounded stereotypes; reinforce and expand our commitments to the communities where we live and work. As relatively more-recent immigrants, much like other ethnic groups that came to these shores before us, we have to step out of our comfort zones and learn about the cultures, networks, institutions, and laws that govern and serve our communities.

Our culture, faith, history, heritage, and experiences shape and reflect our deepest values. They are vital to our spirit, personal dignity, and humanity and need to be respected as a sacred right.

More and more Americans appreciate other cultures in our midst and genuinely believe that they contribute immensely to our City and the Nation. Mayor and Mrs. Greg Ballard paid a visit to The Sikh Temple this past Sunday to affirm the idea that all citizens represent an asset and can contribute much to our City. In Indiana, The Sikh Americans are growing in numbers, increasingly feeling at-home, and are finding the power and blessings of staying fully engaged.






Mayor Greg Ballard’s Speech at The Sikh Temple in Indianapolis


Click: Photos