Update, March 23: On Wednesday, Trump released a statement sending greetings to Iranians celebrating Nowruz, after reported attempts from Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, to block it. Bannon did succeed, however, in eliminating a line about engaging with the Iranian government.
Every year while in office, former President Barack Obama crafted an annual address to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and sent his greetings to the millions of people of Iranian descent celebrating in the United States and abroad. The messages gained even greater significance over the past several years, as they came amid ongoing negotiations over what would eventually become a historic nuclear deal.
But as White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned in February, “there is a new president in town,” one that has consistently pushed anti-Muslim rhetoric into the mainstream, supports banning Muslims from immigrating to the United States, and has threatened to dismantle the same nuclear agreement Obama said he hoped to achieve in his Nowruz messages.
It’s been more than 24 hours since the start of this year’s celebration, and President Donald Trump has yet to issue a message of his own. When asked Tuesday whether Trump planned to issue Nowruz greetings similar to Obama’s, White House press secretary Sean Spicer demurred, saying he would get back to reporters on the issue. The absence of such remarks would come on the heels of a bungled Black History Month and the administration’s failure to mention Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.
As a recent Times op-ed explained, Nowruz is a holiday rooted in hope—something many Americans could likely use amid the current political climate. “So America, please find an Iranian and, for a moment, forget about the headlines that divide us,” writer Firoozeh Dumas said. “Ask about Nowruz.You might be surprised to find out that we have more in common than you think. That should give us all hope.”
Until Trump weighs in, here’s a look back at some of Obama’s past Nowruz remarks: