Democratic Senators Kamala Harris of California, and Corey Booker of New Jersey delivered keynote addresses at the Indian American Impact Project’s inaugural summit June 8 in Washington, D.C.
The day-long summit was organized by the newly-formed organization, founded by Raj Goyle, former member of the Kansas state House of Representatives, and Deepak Raj, chairman of Pratham USA. The Indian American Impact Project seeks to promote Indian Americans for political office.
The summit brought together 200 Indian American candidates, elected officials, philanthropists, leaders, and activists. Reps. Ami Bera and Ro Khanna, both Democrats from California, along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois — both Democrats — also addressed the gathering.
Three candidates running for seats in the House of Representatives also spoke at the event, including Aruna Miller, a member of the Maryland state House of Delegates; Aftab Pureval, currently the Hamilton County, Ohio Court of Clerks; and physician Hiral Tipirneni of Arizona.
Booker and Harris, who is African American and Indian American, have both emerged as early favorites for the 2020 presidential election, amid much speculation that a ticket featuring the duo could topple President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.
Booker gave the opening address, while Harris delivered the closing address, recalling her childhood summers spent in India at the home of her grandparents.
Harris’s grandfather, a freedom fighter, would take the little girl on his daily morning walks with others who fought in India’s fight against colonialism. The group would heavily debate politics, Harris recalled. “Those walks formed my perspective on what a democracy can and should be,” said the junior senator, who won her first term in 2016.
“Truth alone triumphs,” said Harris, recalling a slogan her grandfather used as a freedom fighter, which she said was still relevant in today’s political climate in the U.S.
“To be a leader right now, we must speak truths,” said Harris, who formerly served as San Francisco’s district attorney, and then California’s Attorney General. “Let us speak the truth,” she said, acknowledging that facing racism, xenophobia, and homophobia are still realities for a large segment of the U.S. population.
“Let us speak the truth that most middle class families are running harder than ever before,” stated Harris, noting that wages have not kept up with steep increases in the cost of living. “Let us speak the truth that ripping children from the arms of their parents is not border security,” said the senator.
Harris said she rejects the notion that the country is divided, and stated that most Americans face the same battles of access to health care for themselves and their family, getting sustainable employment and being able to keep it, paying off student loans, and being able to retire with dignity.
“As patriots, we must fight each and every day for the ideals of our country, knowing that we are better than this,” said Harris, in an oblique dig at the president.
Booker, in his opening remarks, called upon Indian Americans to contribute their political might. “We so urgently need Indian American leadership — not just because of the dynamism it has brought to other sectors of American society — but also because this is a time when the very idea of America is under assault,” he said. “We have a time now where Indian American pride, where Indian American strength, where Indian American ideas are critically needed,” stated Booker.
“This historic summit is proof that the Indian American community has truly arrived on the political scene,” said Goyle in a press statement after the event. “Together, we can shape a future in which talented and patriotic Indian Americans are fully represented at every level of government, from City Hall to the White House.”
“The energy, enthusiasm, and talent of our elected officials and candidates is truly inspiring,” added co-founder Goyle. “Impact is proud to stand with them — and we look forward to expanding their ranks at every level of elected office.”