WASHINGTON: First Indian-origin US Senator Kamala Harris has urged Indian-American politicians to speak the truth and join the "collective fight" against bigotry, hatred and the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in America.
Addressing a unique gathering of over 200 Indian-American candidates, elected officials, philanthropists, community leaders and other interested parties, Harris urged fellow Indian-Americans to seek inspiration from their country of origin.
"Let's speak truth. This country was founded by immigrants. Unless you're native American or your ancestors were kidnapped and brought over on a slave ship, you people are immigrants," Harris said in an inspiring speech at the first-of-its-kind event organised by the Indian American Impact Project yesterday.
"When an administration rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) systematically attempting to purge our nation of immigrants, that is a fact that should disturb anybody who is an immigrant or not, who comes from a family of immigrants or not, whether their descendants are from Ireland or India. It's a collective fight," she said.
Harris said her mother was born in India and maternal grandfather was one of the freedom fighters in India.
"I'm trying to remember what some of the slogans were when my grandfather participated in India's independence because I am sure that some of those apply to what is going on with today's world," she said.
"And one of them was a national motto at the time and it still is today, which is truth alone triumphs. So let's think about where we are today," she said.
Harris told American leaders to look through the lens of the countries of their origin and think of it through the lens of what they do and what they wanted to do and will do to provide a bright future for the country they are in.
"This has been a moment in time where we as Americans are being required to look in the mirror and answer a question of who we are?" she said.
"I believe we are a great country. And part of what makes us who we are is that this country was founded on certain ideas, ideals that were present when we wrote the Constitution of the US: which is that we are all equals and should be treated that way. This is a moment in time that is requiring us to fight for those ideals," she said.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said while the Indian American community had been leading in the areas of culture, business and academia, the same kind of dynamism, imagination expertise is missing in the political sphere.
In every area Indian-Americans have been punching above their weight "except for one and that has been in elected officials. And it's time that Indian-Americans came forward and provide the leadership", Booker said.
"From tech to the arts to business, Indian-American dominance is helping America, but the one area that we have to lead into and deeper engage is in that civic space for policy where ideas are being shaped," Booker said.
The half-a-day event was addressed by all the Indian American Congressmen- Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal.
"The summit was first-ever event of its kind," said Gautam Raghavan of the recently-formed Impact Project, which is keeping a track of some 80 Indian Americans running nationwide this election season.
"We brought together over 200 Indian-American candidates, elected officials, donors, community leaders and organisers from around the country to talk about how as a community do we sort of reached that political sophistication where we are able to run for office and then help lead our country," he said.
Noting that a lot of things came out of the conversation, Raghavan said the Indian-American community was at a "tipping point" where it has four members in the US House of Representatives, one senator and over 90 candidates on the ballot this year.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm and energy and for the first time a lot of Indian-American prospective candidates are thinking to themselves, this is something I can do.
"Whereas 10 years ago you found that people were very reluctant to think about running for office, now there's a sense that it is possible for Indian-Americans who run for office," Raghavan said.