biden oped

Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. (photo provided by the Joe Biden campaign)

Four years ago in November, one of the last events I hosted at the Vice President’s residence was a Diwali reception. Here I was, an Irish Catholic Vice President opening my home for a holiday traditionally observed by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains, and that night joined by Muslims, Christians, and Indian Americans of various backgrounds representing the diversity of the diaspora. In the shadow of a devastating and dark election, we gathered together for the festival of lights and new beginnings.

We found hope and a sense of belonging in each other.

That's the America that we love and, four years later, that is what our campaign is about.

I’ve always felt deeply connected to the Indian American community because of the values we share: duty to family and elders, treating people with respect and dignity, self-discipline, service, and hard work. For me, these values were passed down from my Irish ancestors who risked everything for a better life in America, and they have shaped me as a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, and a man of faith and a lifelong public servant. And I’ve seen how those shared values, that immigrant story, forged my lasting relationship with Indian American constituents in Delaware and with Indian American staff both in the United States Senate and in the Obama-Biden Administration, where we’d exchange stories of our families’ sacrifice and marvel that only in America would we be living their dream.

And that lasting relationship continues on this campaign with Indian American leadership across the board, including at the top with Kamala Harris as the Vice Presidential nominee.

Kamala is smart, tested, and prepared. But another thing that makes Kamala so inspiring is her mother, Shyamala Gopalan. We feel Kamala’s pride when she talks about her. She was from Chennai, where her father, Kamala’s grandfather, was active in the fight for Indian independence. She was a diligent science student in the late 1950s, when she set out for America on her own, at 19, to study nutrition and endocrinology at UC Berkeley where she eventually earned a doctorate. Kamala’s mother went on to become a leader in breast cancer research in the Bay Area, where Kamala and her sister Maya were born and raised. Kamala often shares photos of her mother holding her young daughters’ hands at that time, a picture that speaks a thousand stories of courage, hope, and sacrifice.

I know the pride you feel about her nomination because her story is your story, too. It’s an American story. And it’s why I’m asking Kamala to be what Barack Obama asked of me to be: the last person in the room and, together, to represent the belief in possibilities.

But the truth is, President Trump doesn’t share our values. As a result, today’s America doesn’t feel like the America of our dreams.

We value education, courage, and resilience. But faced with the deadly pandemic, Donald Trump panicked. He is erratic. He doesn’t believe in science or respect experts like Dr. Fauci. His negligence has cost lives and livelihoods and the pandemic is worsening with Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations increasing across the country.

As this is happening, he is asking the Supreme Court to wipe out the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. That would take away coverage for 20 million Americans and protections for preexisting conditions for more than 100 million Americans. It would toss out the rule that allows children to be covered on their parents' health care until the age of 26. All in the middle of a pandemic.

We value an economy that works for everyone. But faced with an economic crisis, Donald Trump still sees the world from Park Avenue looking toward Wall Street. A handful of the richest billionaires and biggest corporations have made billions of dollars during the pandemic, while millions of Americans are out of work and 1 in 5 small businesses are closed. And he’s unwilling to bring Republicans and Democrats together to make a deal and deliver real economic relief for the country.

We also believe America is a land of opportunity. But it’s likely you and your family have been caught in the middle of President Trump’s crackdown of legal immigration and pathways to permanent residency and citizenship and his decisions on the H-1B visa program. And his dangerous rhetoric about immigrants has empowered white supremacists and even fueled hate crimes against Indian Americans.

Through it all, the Indian American community has stood as patriots on the frontlines of the pandemic as health care workers, researchers, small businesses owners, educators, and everyday workers to keep our country going through our toughest days.

You still wake up each morning worried you’re putting your lives at risk as you walk out the door. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost loved ones, jobs, and businesses.

Grandparents who had to retire early, but are unable to spend time with their grandchildren. Parents worried whether schools are safe enough to reopen.

Restaurateurs and hoteliers who’ve been stiffed of economic relief while the president bails out big corporations.

After four years, President Trump has left you wondering whether your children and grandchildren will have the future you dream for them and that so many of you came here for and achieved.

That’s unforgivable. We can do so much better.

It starts with containing this pandemic. Kamala and I have a plan that follows the science and listens to the experts to curb the virus and rebuild our economy. That means masking and social distancing, and making testing, treatment, and ultimately a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 free to everyone. We’ll protect our frontline workers with life-saving equipment and provide our schools and businesses with everything they need to reopen safely. We’ll bring together Democrats and Republicans to deliver economic relief for small businesses and working families.

We’ll expand the Affordable Care Act with a public option, and lower premiums and prescription drug costs.

And, we’ll make bold, practical investments to build our economy back better than ever.

I won’t raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, but the wealthiest Americans and big corporations will pay their fair share.

That’s how we’ll unlock new small business lending and unleash manufacturing innovation to ensure a clean-energy economy and modern infrastructure that creates millions of jobs.

We’ll make public college and university tuition free for families making less than $125,000 a year, and help more Indian American families generate wealth and equity through a first-time home buyer's credit worth up to $15,000.

And America will once again welcome immigrants and restore our ability to attract the best and brightest workers in the world. We’ll strengthen our competitiveness and eliminate the limits and reduce backlogs on employment-based visas by country.

And as we value the Indian-American diaspora, we’ll continue to value the U.S.-India relationship. For Donald Trump, it’s photo-ops. For me, it’s getting things done.

Fifteen years ago, I was leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Republican Dick Lugar to approve the historic Civil Nuclear Deal between our nations and advance our technology sharing and defense cooperation. At the time, I said if the United States and India became closer friends, then the world will be a safer place.

Seven years ago, as Vice President, I told business leaders in Mumbai that the U.S.-India partnership was the defining relationship of the 21st Century.

The Obama-Biden years were some of the best we've ever had between our two countries. A Biden-Harris Administration will build on that great progress and do even more. We can and should be natural allies.

That’s why if elected President, I will continue what I have long called for: The U.S. and India will stand together against terrorism in all its forms and work together to promote a region of peace and stability where neither China nor any other country threatens its neighbors. We’ll open markets and grow the middle class in both the United States and India, and confront other international challenges together, like climate change, global health, transnational terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

We will meet every challenge together as we strengthen both democracies—fair and free elections, equality under the law, freedom of expression and religion, and the boundless strength both nations’ draw from our diversity. These core principles have endured throughout each nations’ histories and will continue to be the source of our strength in the future.

We can do all of this. We just have to come together as a nation. That’s why I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do.

That’s the job of a president. It’s a duty to care—for everyone.

That’s why Kamala and I are so proud of the incredible support from the Indian American community that’s part of our campaign’s broad coalition.

The Indian American electorate of nearly 2 million voters is a powerful force that can make all the difference from North Carolina and Virginia to Pennsylvania and Michigan to Georgia and Texas and across the country.

But only if you vote. So visit iwillvote.com to learn how, where, and when to vote. Make a plan. Then talk to your family and friends.

After four years of darkness, we can be the light once again.

We can be better than what we’ve seen.

We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America.

(1) comment

Kalpana

Great to see this OpEd from a major presidential candidate in one of my favorite community newspapers! -Kalpana V. Peddibhotla

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