• Monday, June 17, 2024

US News

More Indian Americans should run for elected offices: Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris also spoke about her mother Shyamala Gopalan coming to the US from India at the age of 19 and marching for Civil Rights in Berkeley. (Photo: X/@KamalaHarris)

By: Vivek Mishra

US vice president Kamala Harris has said that the number of Indian Americans in elected offices does not reflect their growing population. She encouraged members of the minority ethnic community to run for elections more frequently.

Harris, 59, who has both Indian and African heritage, spoke at “Desis Decide,” the annual summit of Indian American Impact, a Democratic Party think tank supporting and funding Indian Americans running for elected offices across the country.

“Over the years, we’ve had so much more participation by Indian Americans in the electoral process running for office. But the numbers are still not reflective of the size of the growing population,” said Harris, addressing a packed room of Indian Americans in the national capital.

Currently, there are five elected Indian American members in the US Congress: Dr Ami Bera, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, and Shri Thanedar. Impact believes that by 2024, the number of Indian Americans in the US Congress will increase to 10 members.

In a tightly contested presidential race in November, Impact noted that Indian American voters, the second largest immigrant community and fastest growing in many states, could be decisive in key races across the country.

Harris praised the work of Impact in her opening remarks. “You must know that you are not alone. There is so much that we still have to do as a country and a lot of the work that we each do, which is why we are here together, is born out of a belief in the promise of America. And dare I say that, I am empirical evidence of the promise of America,” she said.

“This election coming up in six months presents a question to each of us. What kind of world do we want to live in and what kind of country do we want to live in? One way to answer that question is to seek office and participate in elections knowing that the outcome of those elections matter in fundamental ways,” said Harris, President Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2024 presidential election. She asked audience members to raise their hands if they were running for office or planning to do so.

“You are going to find yourself in rooms where you are the only one who looks like you, the only one who has had your life experience. What I then say to you is look around this room and hold onto this image. Remember when you walk into those rooms, you are not alone. We are all there with you. You must remember that,” she said.

Harris also spoke about her mother Shyamala Gopalan coming to the US from India at the age of 19 and marching for Civil Rights in Berkeley.

She shared memories of visiting India every two years and her grandfather taking her on morning walks. “I remember as a young girl… hearing them discuss the importance of standing for what is right and fairness,” she said.

Harris’ maternal grandfather PV Gopalan was an Indian foreign service official. Impact co-founder and treasurer Deepak Raj spoke about Harris’s role in the organization’s formation eight years ago.

“She has been an incredible guiding force for this organization. She came to the first summit in 2018 and here she is again,” Raj said. He highlighted that Harris is the first South Asian Indian American woman to be elected as vice president of the US.

“She has been an incredible role model for all of us. What she has done is she has paved the way for women, immigrants, and minorities and is a true hero and an inspiration,” Raj said. “Her success gives us hope and confidence for a bright future, fighting for public office as a community.”

As Harris took the stage, some attendees chanted “Four more years.” However, one person shouted “Shame on you,” seemingly in reference to the war in Gaza, and was soon removed from the room.

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