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US award for Indra Nooyi

April 24, 2007 03:49 IST

The 2006 India Abroad Person of the Year, Indra Nooyi, president and CEO and soon to be chairman of PepsiCo, Inc., was among three South Asian Americans and one Egyptian-American, who were presented with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services', 'The Americans By Choice Awards,' during a special naturalisation ceremony co-hosted by the Department of State and the USCIS where 50 immigrants were naturalized as new Americans.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who delivered the keynote address at the ceremony held in the 7th Floor Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, said the four "Americans by Choice" awardees were also individuals, "men and women, like you, who arrived in this country as strangers, who became citizens with the same oath that you have sworn and who, by their actions, have earned the honor that they will receive today, as "Outstanding American of Choice."

Besides Nooyi, the other three "Americans by Choice" awardees were another Indian American, Srinagar-born Farooq Kathwari, chairman and CEO of Ethan Allen, an upscale furniture conglomerate; Pakistani-American M J Khan,a member of the Houston City Council; and Dina Habib Powell, Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs.

Rice said: "Indra Nooyi, whose journey to America began in India and continues to this day, is president and CEO of PepsiCo, one of the world's largest and most successful companies."

"Farooq Kathwari, who departed his home in Kashmir, nearly 40 years ago, and today serves as chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen interiors, is also a respected voice in international affairs," she said. Kathwari, is the founder and chief sponsor of the Kashmir Study Group comprising several former US ambassadors to countries in South Asia, academics and experts, who have been conducting second-track diplomacy and efforts to find a political solution to the imbroglio in Kashmir and also alleviate the lot of the Kashmiri people.

Rice said that M J Khan, "a native of Pakistan, now a citizen of Texas, is an accomplished engineer, a successful business, a community leader, and a member of the Houston City Council."

"And of course, Dina Habib Powell," she added, "who as my Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs, is helping America to connect to the peoples of the world, including those of her native Egypt."

The Secretary said that Nooyi, Kathwari, Khan and Powell, "are an inspiration to all Americans, but especially to those of you who have sworn the Oath of Allegiance today. It is to you, in particular, our newest Americans that I would like to leave one final idea."

Rice said, "In a sense, America asks very little of you. You may speak, and think, and associate, and worship as you please. We ask only that you obey the laws, pay your taxes."

"But in a broader sense, America also asks everything of you," she said, arguing that," for if liberty is to be more than mere license, if we as a nation are truly to be 'one of out many' then we must also look to our responsibilities--to treat one another with civility and fairness, to work together to protect this great land and the previous things that we hold in common, to honor and understand our nation's past, so as to better navigate the present and to chart a better future, and last but not the least, to serve as a just and principled leader in the events beyond our borders."

Rice said that "you have all come to America in search of different things, but from this day forth, you are now citizens of the world's most powerful nation, and with that power comes a unique and special obligation--an obligation to be a partner to the millions of men and women in the world, especially the weakest and the least fortunate who now look to you as Americans to help them strive in their own nations for the enduring ideals of a New World: a safer life, a freer life, a life that is better for themselves and for their children."

Thus, she said, "I would ask each of you, my fellow citizens, to reflect on what role you can play in this other American journey, our journey in the world."

"Because you see," Rice continued, "America stands as a shining example that difference does not have to be a license to kill. Difference can be a source of strength. Because you know that from today forward, it matters not that you are Ethiopian-American or Russian-American or Mexican-American or Korean-American, you are just American."

"And you know too," she said, "that it did not matter from where you came, it matters where you're going. That is what it is to be essentially American."

With that Rice once again congratulated all of the new naturalized citizens and led all of the audience in what she said "something that every schoolchild says, the Pledge of Allegiance."

After Rice's remarks, Emilio Gonzalez, Director of the USCIS presented the "Americans By Choice Award," to Nooyi, Kathwari, Khan and Powell, for what he said was "in recognition of their outstanding achievements."

He said these four naturalized American, "through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship, have demonstrated their commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC