Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) accepted the 2016 Doshi Family Bridgebuilder Award at a ceremony on Saturday, October 1, 2016.
Named for its benefactors, Navin and Pratima Doshi, this award honors and celebrates leaders who foster understanding between cultures. As the first Hindu member of Congress and the first American Samoan member, Gabbard has built bridges between faiths and cultures in her public service leadership.
“Congresswoman Gabbard is a successful and established American leader who is a strong champion for American-Hindus and U.S.-India relations,” said Pratima Doshi. “Tulsi Gabbard is a war veteran, a bright light in the world of politics who happens to be a lifelong Hindu inspired by the path of Karma Yoga. She has not shied away from her Hindu Faith and identity and has inspired young Hindu Americans to be proud of their faith and identity.”
In her acceptance remarks, Gabbard introduced the audience to the Aloha spirit. “When I ‘Aloha’ you, I come to you with an open heart, I come to you with respect and with love regardless of the color of your skin, or where you come from,” she said. “Aloha is recognition that each of us shares this very same breath of life, the same spirit, that we are all part of one family. I grew up learning about living Aloha, about building bridges, about finding that interconnectedness and that common ground that exists between all of us.”
Gabbard’s commitment to public service began as early as high school, when she founded a non-profit to promote environmental education in her home state, Hawai’i. When she was just 21 years old, she became the youngest member ever elected to the Hawai’i State Assembly, and she later held an elected seat on the Honolulu City Council.
Gabbard joined the Hawai’i Army National Guard in 2003, and in that capacity, she served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She received a Meritorious Service Medal following her first tour, serving on a medical unit in Iraq. In 2007, she volunteered to join her unit for a second tour of duty, this time as a Platoon Leader. While there, she was primary trainer for the Kuwait National Guard, making her one the first women to set foot in a Kuwaiti military facility.
Gabbard is now in her second term of office in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since taking office, she has worked on veterans’ affairs, affordable healthcare, national security, sustainable energy, among other priorities. She has received many awards for her leadership and service, including the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award for her advocacy for veterans (2013) and the Friend of the National Parks Award from the National Parks Conservation Association (2015).
Previous recipients of the Doshi Family Bridgebuilder Award include Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Huston Smith, and others.