WASHINGTON President Barack Obama saluted Muslim Americans on Thursday for their contributions in helping build the nation as business entrepreneurs, technology innovators and pioneers in medicine.
Obama spoke at a White House dinner he hosted to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The meal, or iftar, breaks the day of fasting when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.
Obama said Ramadan is "a time of reflection, a chance to demonstrate ones devotion to God through prayer and through fasting, but it's also a time for family and friends to come together."
He said it is a White House tradition to celebrate sacred days of various faiths, adding that these occasions celebrate diversity that defines the country and reaffirms the freedom to worship.
Obama said Americans and people in the Middle East also have a common goal for economic opportunity and entrepreneurship.
"We work a little harder, we aim a little higher and we keep striving to create more opportunity for our children and future generations," Obama said. "Of course this isn't just the American dream, it's the aspiration of people around the world. It's the basic, human desire for progress, to find dignity that comes from work to give our children something better."
He said these yearnings for economic freedom and opportunity, just as much as political freedom, "are at the root of so much of the change we've seen around the world in the past few years, including in North Africa and in the Middle East."
Obama was joined by members of his administration, elected officials, religious leaders and members of the diplomatic corps as he hosted his fifth iftar in the State Dining Room.