November 14, 2023
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Signs Legislation Making Diwali a School Holiday

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Signs Legislation Making Diwali a School Holiday

Governor Hochul: “This is an important, meaningful holiday, Diwali, and it should be an opportunity for congregation together not isolation. And the celebration of light should not be commemorated in the dark. And so we are here to day for one simple reason, to say “no more.” It's an immense honor for me to sign a historic bill into law declaring Diwali a public school holiday in New York City.”

Hochul: “In a state where diversity is our strength… we constantly strive to push ourselves to understand each other more. This holiday will allow us to do that. This day off school will allow us to do that and show the humility and tolerance toward each other with other perspectives different from our own. That's how we start building the New York State that we all can be so proud of. It's only possible when our children grow up seeing people from other cultures and religions and beliefs and celebrate that and learn how not to fear differences, but to honor them and to respect them.”

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that makes Diwali a school holiday for New York City public schools. Legislation S.7574/A.7769 requires that all public schools in New York City be closed on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Indian calendar in each year, which is known as Diwali.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good evening, everyone. What a wonderful evening this is. I've been so looking forward to this. We couldn't have picked a more fitting time to be together. Diwali was just a couple of days ago, a wonderful occasion where New York's Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities celebrate the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

And most importantly, we celebrated time together with our families and community. And that last part is especially important to me. Because New York, kind of fast paced sometimes, and this occasion allows us to slow down and to appreciate all we've been given in life and to enjoy the company of those we don't see year-round.

But also create memories and traditions for children. To make sure they pass them on to their families as well, to the next generation, and look forward to a great future together. But, for so long, many South Asian New Yorkers have had to celebrate their most important holidays apart, or late at night, because parents work and children are at school. I know that's been difficult. This is an important, meaningful holiday, Diwali, and it should be an opportunity for congregation together not isolation. And the celebration of light should not be commemorated in the dark. And so we are here to day for one simple reason, to say “no more.” It's an immense honor for me to sign a historic bill into law declaring Diwali a public school holiday in New York City.

And I'm proud to be surrounded by so many fantastic community leaders and elected people and activists who have been fighting for this for such a long time. I want to acknowledge our state senator, Joe Addabbo, let's give him a round of applause for his efforts to make this happen. Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, the first South Asian woman ever elected to office in New York State ­– two great leaders. And then Dr. Uma, the President of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, Dr. Uma. And I'll present a proclamation to honor for outstanding work, for 40 years of service as the President of the Hindu Temple Society. What an extraordinary accomplishment.

Two years ago we gathered to announce and to declare Diwali Day here in New York. I was here as a brand-new governor. I had a chance to meet many of you. And now New York City public school students will have the day off from school to celebrate with their families, and that's a good reason to be excited.

But what I'm proud of also is the message we're sending every child. I signed this legislation with a clear vision in mind. A vision of children feeling empowered to share their heritage on the playground with others and ask curious questions about different families and their traditions and all of a sudden understand each other even more and develop appreciation for other cultures and customs.

In a state where diversity is our strength, and we celebrate it all the time, we constantly strive to push ourselves to understand each other more. This holiday will allow us to do that. This day off school will allow us to do that and show the humility and tolerance toward each other with other perspectives different from our own.

That's how we start building the New York State that we all can be so proud of. It's only possible when our children grow up seeing people from other cultures and religions and beliefs and celebrate that and learn how not to fear differences, but to honor them and to respect them. That's what we need in New York today.

And this is an important part of that as we cherish our differences and it shows our children you don't have to be different and be alone, you can be together. And I do believe that if we value our diverse communities in the way we say, we'll continue to celebrate this, and the South Asian community's influence has been profound. It's not just the amazing restaurants and organizations, it's the music we go to and dance to, it's the movies we watch, the small businesses that populate our downtowns, and these beautiful neighborhoods that breathe life into our communities every single day.

I look around this room and I see the vital role that so many South Asians play in our state. Leaders in every single field. Not just elected leaders, but in medicine, doctors and lawyers and teachers and others who care so deeply about this community, whether they're first generation, second generation, third generation, this is home. And I want to make sure we understand that this is so important.

And it's the leadership that came together and the advocacy and the strong voice together that led us to this day. I know there's been some difficult moments in this community as well. There's been a rise in hate crimes against many, but particularly against the Asian and South Asian community. Since February of 2020, the beginning of the pandemic there has been a 700 percent increase in anti-Asian violence and harassment. I want you to know as a proud Governor of this state, I'm proud of this community. I will continue to fight to protect the safety of you and your children every single day because we have no tolerance for hate in our state.

Today, we affirm our vision for the future, a brighter, more enlightened, shared future together. And I'm really proud to have this opportunity to speak to you tonight, to honor the traditions and the culture, honor Diwali, and allow families to celebrate together from this year going forward. So, congratulations to everyone involved, I thank you for the privilege, but also at this time let me bring up Senator Joe Addabbo and hear his reflections on this important, significant, historic day. Thank you very much, everyone.

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