Nowruz: Bidens Celebrate the Persian New Year

On March 20, President Joe Biden hosted the inaugural Nowruz reception at the White House, where he lauded Iranian women who were “fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Biden welcomed the Persian new year, which he said “reminds us of hope and what that lies ahead from these darkest times so many have been through.”

Biden commended the brave women and citizens “inspiring the world” with their “conviction” and “genuine courage.” The government brutally cracked down on nationwide protests that erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. “Together with our partners, we’re going to continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for their attacks against their people,” Biden pledged.

Joe Biden
President Biden speaking at the Nowruz reception

First Lady Jill Biden also marked the new year by praising Iranian women. “Today, as the battle cry of ‘women, life, freedom’ continues to reverberate around the world, we cannot celebrate the renewal of spring without thinking of them,” she said. “To the girls and women of Iran, I want to say: Your song sings in our hearts. We see your struggle, and we stand with you. You are not alone.” The following are excerpts and remarks from the Bidens and other U.S. officials celebrating Nowruz.


President Joe Biden

In remarks at a White House Nowruz reception on March 20, 2023: “Good afternoon, everyone. As we celebrate new beginnings, Jill and I, along with Kamala and Doug, are honored to host a new national tradition — and I say a “new national tradition” — the first Nowruz reception on this scale ever held in the White House. And you’re evidence of it.”

“It’s a celebration that’s been a millennium in the making, observed by millions of people around the world this very day, and the roots in ancient Persia. You know, one that was carried on by people and in the gardens of Shiraz, the mountains of Kabul and Erbil, in the shores of Baku and beyond, most of which I’ve got a chance to visit — but I got to — get to come home too. And one that has always been honored anew by diverse diaspora in communities across the United States, including all of you.

“You know, folks, it’s the start of a new year that reminds us of hope and what that lies ahead from these darkest times so many have been through.

“And we know that this year’s holiday comes at a difficult time for many families. Hope where is needed more than ever is going to be coming.

“Hope for families in Turkey and Syria, who are grieving for the loss of far too many loved ones from that devastating earthquake.

“Hope for people in Afghanistan who continue to struggle with a grave humanitarian crisis.

“Hope for women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Isn’t it amazing how young your daughters or granddaughters are — how they’re moved by what they see on television? It’s amazing. Thank God it’s hard for them to believe. It’s hard for them to believe.

“The United States stands with those brave women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their conviction and, I have to emphasize, their courage — their genuine courage.

“And together with our partners, we’re going to continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for their attacks against their people.

“I also want to recognize two proud Iranian-Americans with us today who know better than anyone the power of holding on to hope and the possibility of a new day. Jason — where’s Jason? He’s back there. And Yeganeh. And there’s — and Rezaian.

“Look, Jason… you were both unjustly detained in Iran. Jason for 544 days. We worked very hard to bring him home when I was Vice President. Thank you for — both for being here today. 

“And to all those who are unjustly detained in Iran or anywhere in the world, know that you are not forgotten, and we will not stop trying to get you home. 

“Returning wrongfully detained and people held hostage — and particularly Americans and their families — is a top priority for this administration.”

“And we’ll continue our work to bring home all Americans held hostage or unjustly detained.

“You know, in the 14th century, the Persian — the Persian poet Hasez [sic] — Hafiz — excuse me — said: ‘Out of the great need, we are holding hands and climbing.’  ‘Out of the great need, we are holding hands and climbing.’

“All around the world, wherever we need — the need is great, this holiday offers a moment to reach out — reach out and, together, to begin to climb toward a new day, one full of hope and new possibilities.

“I thank all of you. You’ve continued to spread the hope for this holiday across every part our own country. 

“We see it in the homemade pastries and new presents exchanged.

“We hear it in the sound of children banging pots and in the laughs of families who’ve come together.

“And we feel it in the communities that gather to make this celebration such a joyous part of American culture, one that reflects the soul of who we are as a nation.

“You know, it’s a soul that we also see reflected at this Haft-Sin and I’m tempted to walk over. Anyway.

“The sprouts that remind us, though, that we can always begin anew. The vinegar that symbolizes the power of tolerance. The apple that inspires us to believe in a more beautiful and healthy future.

“And even the table itself — a place where we gather in unity. A place where young and old come together to honor the past and the present. A place where we may disagree and debate but we always — always there’s a seat for everyone.

“That’s America at our best: resilient, tolerant, courageous, hopeful, diverse. That’s who we are.

“We’re the only nation in the world built on an idea. Every other nation — that’s not hyperbole. Every other nation is based on things like geography, ethnicity, religion. But we’re the only nation built on an idea that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, et cetera.

“We’ve never fully lived up to it, but we’ve never, ever walked away from it. And that’s due in large part to the waves of immigrant families who have come from every part of the world to push our nation ever forward, renewing and reinvigorating our nation generation after generation after generation.

“We see that today in this very room.

“Maybe you or your parents or grandparents came to America, uncertain of what life would bring but certain you and your children and grandchildren would be able to do anything you wanted to do here, try it.

“You’ve grown up seeing your children forged by their heritage but also the kinds of friendships found every day in American things — soccer practice, band practice — just those special times, and all the things that make an extraordinary life in our generation — in our great nation.

“And thanks to all of you for enriching the soul of this nation. Thank you for adapting old traditions anew to tell the ongoing story of America, one firmly stamped by your experiences.

“Let me close with this. Few periods have been more challenging to our world than the one we’re going through right now. And we face an inflection point. I had a professor who said, ‘An inflection point is when you’re going down the highway at 65 miles an hour and you radically turn five degrees to the right. You can never get back on the course you were on.’

“Well, recent decisions — points — the decisions we make today are going to determine the course of our future for the next several decades to come.

“Now more than ever, we need you — we need you — engaged in the work of our time to help fulfill the promise of this nation — the same promise of opportunity, equality that brought you and your families here in the first place.

“That’s what I hope for this very day: to celebrate and connect, to feel the pride of community, to keep the faith in our country.

“’Out of a great need, we’re all holding hands and climbing.’

“We have to keep climbing.

“I’ve never been more optimistic in my life about the future of this country. And I mean that sincerely.

“Let’s remember who in God’s name we are. We are the United States of America. And there is nothing — I mean this from the bottom of my heart: There is nothing — nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together.

“Happy Nowruz to all of you and your families. And may God bless you all.”

“Folks, you know, the Persian culture is amazing. As a student of the Persian culture — not a practitioner, but a student — it’s incredible where the world is, where the world wouldn’t have been without — without the culture. I really mean it.

“If you’ll excuse me for quoting a non-Persian poet that relates to today — because I know the hope in all your hearts, your desire — I mean, it’s real. You can feel it in this room, just the looks on your faces, those of you who still have folks back there. 

“Well, other people who have been persecuted as well have had poets that talk about their future. One of my favorite poets happens to be an Irishman named Seamus Heaney, and Heaney wrote a poem called ‘The Cure at Troy.’  And there’s a stanza in the poem that I think reflects what all of you are thinking, should be thinking, and will succeed in doing.  He said,

“’History [teaches us not to] hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
[That] longed-for tidal wave
Of justice [rises] up,
And hope and history rhyme.’

“It’s my sincere hope we’re doing everything in our power — everything in our power to make that happen. It’s an incredible, incredible culture.  Incredible people. 

“And thank you for being here. Thank you for making this day known to all Americans, because everybody watched this.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you’ve done.”

“You’re amazing!  Remember who you are.”

In an additional statement on March 20, 2023: “Today, Jill and I send our best wishes to everyone celebrating Nowruz across the United States and around the world—from the Middle East, to Central and South Asia, to the Caucasus, to Europe. 

“The Nowruz holiday brings loved ones together around the Haft-Sin table to reflect on the year that has passed and renew hope for the year ahead. This year, Nowruz comes at a difficult time for many families, when hope is needed more than ever—including for the women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United States will continue to stand with them, and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their conviction and courage. And together with our partners, we will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for their attacks against their people.

“As we welcome the season of spring—and the new growth and possibility it brings—we have decorated our Haft-Sin table at the White House to reflect our hopes for the new year. And, we join Americans everywhere in celebrating the diverse diaspora communities who continue to strengthen the fabric of our nation, generation after generation. To everyone celebrating, Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak—we wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year.”


First Lady Jill Biden

In remarks at a White House Nowruz reception on March 20, 2023: “Hello. Welcome to the White House. And Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak!

“’For the feeling of peace
for the sun after these long nights…
for women, life, and freedom
…freedom, for freedom, for freedom.’

“Those lyrics are so powerful, aren’t they?”

First Lady Jill Biden
First Lady Biden

“When I first heard ‘Baraye,’ I was stunned by the courage of this song and the women it lifts up.

“Shervin Hajipour was arrested, but not before his video was seen 40 million times in two days. Not before his music became an anthem for freedom, sung in the streets.

“And that’s why, in February, I was so honored to announce that Shervin had won a Grammy. 

“And earlier this month, here in this room, we recognized the bravery of Iranian women and girls fighting for freedom at the International Women of Courage awards.

“Today, as the battle cry of ‘women, life, freedom’ continues to reverberate around the world, we cannot celebrate the renewal of spring without thinking of them. This new year, they, too, should be surrounded by support and kindness.

“So, to the girls and women of Iran, I want to say: Your song sings in our hearts. We see your struggle, and we stand with you. You are not alone. 
“Their courage is reflected in everyone who celebrates this holiday.  And so, together, we plant our hopes on the Haft-Sin table, weaving them among the sprouts of wheat or lentils, watering them with visions of victories we seek this new year.

“Like seeds breaking through the earth, our hopes reach towards each shining sunrise, nourished by the healing that we find together, our love for one another, the wisdom gained from the year now finished, and the patience we learn from our ancestors.

“Even as we are renewed, we are rooted in the history that lives inside of us, the families who shaped us, and the shoulders on which we stand.

“History lives in this house as well, hammered into the beams of these walls and swirling in the marble of each fireplace. It tells the stories and legends of where we’ve come from and who we’ve been.”

“We know that the White House, too, can grow and evolve and begin something new. With our unique talents and traditions, with our love and laughter, with our faith in the future that we want, we breathe new life into these halls.

“This is an historic house, but you make it a home, alive with purpose and possibility. So, let us begin once again, be reborn in hope and healing, wisdom and love.

“And now, it is my pleasure to introduce astronaut and future commanding — commander of our next mission to the International Space Station, Lieutenant Colonel Jasmin Moghbeli.”


Other U.S. Officials

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 20, 2023: In a statement, “I wish a happy Nowruz to all those celebrating around the world. I hope the new year brings you happiness, health, and prosperity.

“Nowruz is a symbol of rebirth. It is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends by the haft sin table, sharing wishes for the year ahead. Nowruz is also an opportunity to reflect on the year that has passed, which has been particularly hard for many who celebrate. The people of Iran have faced a brutal crackdown at the hands of the Islamic Republic. Many families face an empty chair at their Nowruz table this year, as friends and family members have been killed or detained by Iranian authorities. On the occasion of Nowruz, we reiterate our commitment: the United States will continue to defend your human rights and to support you as you seek a brighter future.

“Nowruz and its positive message of rejuvenation cross many cultural, linguistic, and political boundaries.  Wherever you celebrate, we hope you are blessed and rejuvenated by the coming of the new year.  Nowruz Pirooz, Nowruz Mobarak!”


Robert Malley, the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, in remarks on March 21, 2023: “This past year has been a difficult one for so many Iranians. As families gather to mark Nowruz, there are far too many chairs left empty by sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers who have been killed or detained by the regime for the simple act of exercising their inalienable rights.

“You are the ones who will write this page in Iran’s history. But you should know that you are not alone. You should know how inspired we are by your bravery, how determined we are to listen to and amplify your voices, how dedicated we are to ensuring that you have access to the internet—even when your rulers seek to deny it, and how committed we are on our own and together with so many across the globe to hold to account those perpetrating human rights abuses.

“It has been a difficult year, yes. But also a year of unspeakable courage, of remarkable resilience, and of hope. Hope that even given Iran’s long and illustrious past, the best days for its people lie in its tomorrows.

“On behalf of the United States, I wish you peace and prosperity in the new year and hope for a better future.”