• Friday, January 27, 2023

US News

Indian-American Krishna Vavilala receives US Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award

By: Pramod Thomas

US president Joe Biden has recognised Indian-American and a longtime Houstonian, Krishna Vavilala, with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement (PLA) Award, the nation’s highest honour for his contributions to his community and the country at large.

The Presidential Lifetime Achievement (PLA) Awards, led by AmeriCorps, is an annual event held to honour citizens, who exhibit outstanding character, worth ethic, and dedication to their communities.

AmeriCorps, an agency of the US government, engages more than five million Americans in service through a variety of volunteer work programmes in many sectors.

At a glittering ceremony last week, 86-year-old Vavilala, a Houstonian for the past four decades, was lauded for his lifetime service and achievements by calling him a “Change Maker and Global Humanitarian”.

AmeriCorps certifier Dr Sonia R. White presented the official Presidential Award to Vavilala which contained a framed proclamation from the White House, signed by President Biden, and the medallion.

Vavilala attended the red-carpet event along with his wife, Prabhat Lakshmi, two daughters, Monica and Amanda, and four grandchildren.

In the Citation of the Congressional Certificate of Recognition, 18th District Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who was the keynote speaker, said “Your dedication to serving your nation deserves the respect, admiration, and Commendation of the United States Congress”. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner stated in his congratulatory message that the award identifies selfless individuals who work behind the scenes without seeking the limelight for their efforts.

“For this, your kindness and generosity are deserving of this award. The City of Houston is pleased to honour you and thank you for your dedication to the betterment of this world,” it said.

Originally from Andhra Pradesh, Vavilala is a retired electrical engineer, and currently, the founder and chairman of the Foundation for India Studies (FIS), a 16-year-old non-profit organisation, whose signature project ‘the Indo-American Oral History Project” won the 2019 Mary Fay Barnes Award for Excellence.

“I am deeply touched by this unexpected honour, which is truly a recognition of the contributions of the Indians in Houston, ” Vavilala told PTI.

In 2006, Vavilala established the India Studies programme at the University of Houston, He was also responsible for initiating the India Studies programme at Texas Southern University, early this year.

Vavilala, a strong believer in promoting peace and racial harmony, has participated in several Martin Luther King Jr. parades, dressed as Mahatma Gandhi, a trend he started in 2006, to bring Indian and Black communities together and to spread the message of peace and nonviolence, which both leaders, MLK and Gandhi followed.

FIS remains committed to commemorating Gandhi and Dr King’s legacies of non-violence and peaceful co-existence.

As a nine-year-old boy, Vavilala experienced the aura of Gandhi in person in his native town, Rajahmundry and later on as an immigrant here proposed and served as the Project Chair of the Gandhi statue project in Herman Park (2003).

In addition, Vavilala has also served as a President of the American Society of Indian Engineers, Telugu Cultural Association, Houston and Telugu Literary and Cultural Association.

He has received several awards and accolades from various organisations including the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, the Indo-American Press Club and the Lifetime Achievement Award, from the India Culture Centre.

Sponsored by Comerica, PLA awards honourees also included the Muhamad Ali family, State Rep Shawn Thierry, Grammy-winning gospel artist Brian Courtney Wilson, Global Humanitarian Ricky Anderson, Radio One VP Pamela McKay, Global Humanitarian Clarence KD McNair, CEO of MLK Grande Parade Houston Charles Stamps, CEO of Nation Waste, Inc. Maria Rios.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the S.M.I.L.E. Foundation Inc.

The PLA Awards have rapidly become recognised as an immense honour and highly anticipated annual event in America.

“The Selection Committee of Sonia R White Enterprises, L.L.C. chose each of the honourees based on citizens displaying exemplary character and unparalleled leadership in the community,” Dr White said. “Each honouree has committed to over 4000 community service hours and exhibits outstanding character, worth ethic, and dedication to their communities,” she added.

(PTI)

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