First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Now Ruz party at the White House last Wednesday that drew hundreds of Iranian-Americans, not to mention Afghans, Tajiks, Azeris and others.
The First Lady said much of the work organizing the party was done by Pantea Faed, an Iranian-American who has worked on Mrs. Obama’s staff since graduating from the University of Southern California in 2012. Faed started out as an intern, but subsequently was hired on the permanent staff of the First Lady’s office.
Mrs. Obama greeted the crowd with a speech while standing beside the White House Haft Seen table. She said, “The White House … is truly the People’s House a house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country. And Now Ruz is one of those traditions.”
The First Lady received huge shouts of glee when she greeted the audience, “Nowruzetan mobaraki.” Her accent was fairly good—though it wasn’t known how much instruction she needed from Faed.
The White House brought in nationally-known chef Maziar Farivar to prepare a wide range of delicacies that filled the East Room.
And the White House invited the Silk Road Dancers and Payam Yousefi, the noted master of the santur and kamancheh and vocalist of traditional Persian music to perform. The announcement that Yousefi was there led to scream of glee normally associated with rock stars. The reaction shocked Mrs. Obama—and pleased her. “That was a good one,” she said. “I like that.”
Then she said, “Do it again,” called out “Payam Yousefi,” prompting another round of gleeful shouts to everyone’s delight.
The YouTube video of the First Lady’s five-minute speech had already been viewed by 230,000 people by Saturday afternoon, just three days after the event.