Mr. Hogan

Diversity Issues

Understanding the Story and Meaning of DIWALI

By John Hogan, Director of Education & Cultural Diversity, Best Western

2005 will likely be remembered as a year of questions and wondering. People ask questions and globally wonder about the power of nature, as various parts of the planet experienced records in tsunami damage and fire in the Eastern World. Floods and wind destruction resulting from the highest number of hurricanes ever reported in the Western World dominated the news for months.

Continuing acts of terrorism around the globe, coupled with the threat of additional wars on several continents, all contributed to a world that is troubled and torn apart by a lack of understanding and trust.

Mukesh Mowji, 2005 vice chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, authored a short editorial in the November issue of the AAHOA Lodging Business magazine titled "Illuminating the Way: DIWALI and the Community". (1) In this article, he encouraged people of all nationalities to join in this "Festival of Lights" which begins on November 1st and to give thanks for the health, good fortune, knowledge and happiness that so many people have.

In researching this article, I found that despite the facts that India has the 2nd largest population in the world and Indians have made major contributions in many industries, DIWALI is a holiday known to only a limited number of Westerners. With that in mind, I discovered the following:

What might an observer who knew nothing of this Eastern holiday think if asked to compare certain Western holidays? A 2004 online article (2) did just that in the following observations:

A few weeks after these Eastern holidays, the Christian community marks Christmas and people from a number of other faiths observe their annual feasts.

What does this all mean then?

In New Zealand, the Festival of Lights is an event that has the participation of at least two City Councils (Wellington and Auckland) and a host of government and non-government bodies and private organisations. The annual event, held in the two major cities, is getting better, bigger and more colourful year after year. In addition, a number of local community centres and societies organise events to spread the Indian heritage and culture. More important, human traits of goodwill and understanding.

In the United Kingdom, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales recalled how DIWALI had become a major festival in the country. "It is encouraging to see young people planning for the future of this and other festivals, thereby ensuring the development and continuity in this country," he said. He said festivals such as DIWALI helped 'the all-important cause of cultural understanding between different communities that made up the British people.' (3)

Is there really "room" for everyone?

The Honorable David Kilgour, spoke to that very point in a talk given at a Multicultural Coalition Workshop in Edmonton, Canada in February 2005. (4)

He spoke of how he viewed that newcomers to Canada were a valuable resource, bringing skills, culture and different perspectives which all contributed to his country's long-term prosperity. He addressed the history that Canada was built on immigration, and that Canada had extended its protection to newcomers and afforded them the opportunity to fulfill their human potential.

One of his most significant points was his realization that Canada, among other nations, requires immigration in order to maintain a stable population in a period when total fertility rates among natural born citizens are below the percentage required to maintain current population size. He estimated that if the population of Canada were allowed to begin to decline, subsequent generations of Canadians would inevitably face a declining standard of living. He felt it imperative to work to effectively integrate immigrants into Canada's socio-economic fabric in more effective manners, including filling gaps in the labor market.

It is estimated that the United States and Canada will be facing low unemployment rates by 2010, while at the same time creating an additional 13.7 million jobs in the service industry alone. (5) While the United States is not facing the same precise challenge with fertility rates among natural born citizens, the fact remains there is a need to expand the hospitality industry work force by making it more attractive than has often been the case.

To be globally competitive, each of us must recognize the potential of our human capital. As the brand wars in every industry intensify on a global basis, it is critical now more than ever to recognize that we live in a globalized world in which human mobility has reached unprecedented levels.

DIWALI to Ramadan to Christmas

Rather than look at the differences in people with suspicion or a sense of doing what is viewed as politically correct, we must take the time to learn about the commonality of purpose in life that is shared by all. After all, people from everywhere in the world would rather celebrate joy than be engaged in anger.

John Hogan, MBA CHE CHA MHS is the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International. He serves on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity including the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the AAHOA Education and eCommerce Committee and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners' Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program. He has published more than 200 articles & columns on the hotel industry. Mr. Hogan can be contacted at 602-957-5810 or john.hogan@bestwestern.com Extended Bio...

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