Miss America 2014 Captivates Audience at HAF's Northern California Annual Gala

Milpitas, CA (September 29, 2014) -- Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, captivated a standing-room only audience of more than 600 people at the Hindu American Foundation (HAF)'s Annual Northern California Gala Dinner on September 21 at the India Community Center in Milpitas. The Gala Dinner was attended by several local and state elected officials, and community and interfaith leaders, and marked the Foundation's largest event in its 11 year history.
Davuluri, who gave the evening's keynote address, discussed her journey as the first ever Hindu and Indian American to win the Miss America contest, while describing her experiences growing up as a religious and ethnic minority.
"I remember the first time I even realized I was different in terms of my religion was when I was in elementary school," said Davuluri. "A classmate of mine came up to me and said, 'Do you believe in Jesus?' and I said, 'Well, no but I believe in God.' And he said, 'Well you're going to hell.' I went home and told this to my mother...And we had this conversation about religion and spirituality and how people believe in different things, but at the core of it, at the heart of it, all of us are one."
The program also featured California State Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore, Nora Campos, and California State Senate Majority Leader, Ellen Corbett, both of whom spoke about the importance of education and the need for textbooks to accurately reflect the stories of diverse communities across the state. Senator Corbett was further recognized with the 2014 HAF Friend of the Community Award for her textbook reform efforts and leadership on Senate Bill (SB) 1057, which sought to update and revise the state's nearly two decades old History-Social Science Content Standards, which are the foundation of textbooks. The bill passed the state legislature with near unanimous bipartisan support behind a coalition of more than 100 organizations, professors, educators, and government leaders. Although SB 1057 was vetoed by the Governor on September 18, it signified the first bill sponsored by a Hindu American organization to pass a legislature at any level in the country.
"Congratulations to the Hindu American Foundation on their 11th anniversary and their long and distinguished history of advocacy. It was a privilege to work with HAF towards the success of SB 1057," said Senator Corbett. "I want to thank the Hindu American Foundation for its tenacity, passion and hard work. I am truly honored to be recognized as a friend of the Hindu American Community."
The event celebrated many of HAF's other achievements at the local and national level, and marked the first time the Foundation's Northern California Chapter honored interfaith leaders with the 2014 HAF Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism. The four awardees included Dr. Barbara McGraw, Director of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism and Professor of Social Ethics, Law and Public Life at Saint Mary's College of California; Iftekhar Hai, President of the United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance; Girish Shah, Treasurer and Director of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council and Director of Carry the Vision; and Mervyn Danker, Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee San Francisco.
"We laud these four exemplary individuals for their tireless work in fostering and promoting interreligious dialogue and pluralism," said Kaushik Macherla, an HAF volunteer and coordinator for the Gala Dinner. "Their presence helped make this our most successful event to date."