Justice News

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West Speaks at the Community Relations Service Sikh Cultural Competency Training Preview
Washington, DC
United States
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thank you, Grande, for your kind introduction. I want to echo the Deputy Attorney's General's praise for the outstanding work that you and your team at CRS have been doing across the country to address racial and ethnic tension and prevent and respond to hate incidents, including those targeting the Sikh community. So thank you for your commitment and dedication to that important work.

It is a privilege to be with the Deputy Attorney General, CRS, and all of you here this morning. I think Deputy Attorney General Cole said it well so I'll be very brief. While the tragedy of Oak Creek remains fresh in our minds and an ache in our hearts, what brings us together this morning -- what binds us together in the common cause of understanding, of inclusion, of compassion -- is something more.

It's a belief we can rebut hatred and intolerance with understanding and respect; a belief that those who seek to divide us can be met with our united front to extinguish hate and cultivate peace. And we can use forums like the cultural competency training being previewed today to help law enforcement, local officials, and non-Sikh communities to promote understanding and to truly do justice.

Importantly, much of the value of the training stems from the input and contributions many of you made in developing it. So, I want to echo Director Lum’s gratitude and thank you for your invaluable perspectives. We hope the training will inspire even broader collaborations in communities across the nation and forge lasting partnerships among law enforcement, elected officials, non-Sikh communities, and their Sikh neighbors.

Deputy Attorney General Cole spoke about the Nation's oldest gurdwara in Stockton, California. My hometown is San Jose, California, and there, as you may know, we have a beautiful gurdwara -- Sikh Gurdwara Sahib. It's the largest gurdwara in North America and I've had the great privilege of visiting that temple on more than one occasion.

And every time I visit, I am struck not just by the breathtaking beauty of the architecture -- although it is beautiful -- or the impressive golden dome and surrounding cupolas -- although they are impressive. What always strikes me is not just the structure but the people: those who congregate at the temple. They are Sikh, but not just Sikh; they are people of all faiths, of all ethnicities, of all races and backgrounds.

At that temple you will see the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area, all there together. Worshipping in the Prayer Hall. Gathering in the Community Kitchen. Their welcome presence at that gurdwara embodies the principle of universality; that none is a stranger and no one an enemy.

That is the spirit in which we come together this morning. It's a spirit that I know we all share, and that common commitment will be the foundation of our success in this shared endeavor.

Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014