Indian-Americans get prime spots at US presidential conventions
Dr and Mrs. Desai with Governor Mitt Romney
With both the Democratic and Republican parties out to woo the three million strong Indian- American community with its growing political clout, three of them were given prime spots at the two parties' presidential conventions.
While California's Indian-American Attorney General Kamala Harris won a prime speaking role at the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley were "headliners" at the Republican National Convention at Tampa Florida. Jindal though couldn't be at the event due to hurricane hitting Louisiana.
Apart from a speaking slot at the Democratic convention and endorsing President Barack Obama's run for a second term, Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and an African- American father, is also a co-chair of the Rules Committee.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaking at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, NC
The first woman attorney general of California, she was the first elected official in the state to endorse Obama during his 2008 run for the White House and campaigned for him during his 2004 Senate run.
Harris made a presentation as a national cochair for Obama's re-election bid.
With her star on the rise, some have hinted she could one day be the first female president of the United States but Harris told ABC she's not getting carried away with all that presidential talk just yet.
Kal Penn with First Lady Michelle Obama at Democratic Convention
"I am completely focused on what's right in front of me, for a number of reasons," Harris was quoted as saying. "One, I think life is too short. You have to really enjoy what you're doing today."
"I'm also a little superstitious," she continued. "You know, you concentrate on that thing out there, and then you're gonna trip over the thing in front of you."
Chicagoan Smita Shah became the first Indian-American to serve as a Democratic National Convention parliamentarian.
Ricky Gill addressing at the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley giving well-received speech at Republican Convention in Tampa, FL
Harris drew from her own experience to describe the November presidential election as a choice between an America with opportunity for all or tilted to the wealthiest few. "We are here because we love our country and we firmly believe in the American ideal that our country should work for everyone." Speaking ahead of former President Bill Clinton, who formally entered President Barack Obama's nomination for a second White House run, she said his Republican challenger Mitt Romney "would have us roll back" the rules that "create a level playing field in this country." "President Obama will fight for working families. He will fight to level the economic playing field and fight to give every American the same fair shot my family had," Harris said. "I remember when my mother, Shyamala Harris, bought our first home. I was thirteen. She was so proud and my sister and I were so excited," she recalled.
"Millions of Americans know that feeling of walking through the front door of their own home for the first time - the feeling of reaching for opportunity and finding it."
"That's the choice in this election," said Harris. "It's a choice between an America where opportunity is open to everyone, where everyone plays by the same set of rules, or a philosophy that tilts the playing field to help the wealthiest few."
Indian American actor Kal Penn, best known for his "Harold and Kumar" movies, brought the house down at the Democratic National Convention as he ended his humor filled speech with a four-letter word: "Vote." The former White House staffer, whose real name is Kalpen Suresh Modi, provided the Democrats' answer to Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood who had panned President Barack Obama at Republican National Convention with an interview with an empty chair. Defending Obama's first-term achievements at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, particularly playing up issues that might appeal to younger voters, Penn said: "I can now legally register you to vote."
He recounted a variety of experiences that he said showed him that change under Barack Obama had indeed been change he could believe in.
"I ask all of you young people to join me. You don't even have to put pants on. Go to commit. barackobama.com and register right there. And you know what, the oldies out there, you can do it too," Penn said.
He juxtaposed gay marriage and the death of Osama bin Laden in the same sentence. He joked about what the Twitter hashtag on his speech would be (his recommendation: "sexyface").
Chicagoan Smita Shah became the first Indian-American to serve as a Democratic National Convention parliamentarian. Shah, a close supporter of President Obama, is vice-chair of the Chicago Plan Commission. She heads Spaan Tech, which The Chicago Tribune in 2011 described as a politically connected information and management technology firm that has four contracts with the city potentially worth several million dollars.
Addressing the convention, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said Shah is the "first person of Asian Indian descent" to serve as a convention parliamentarian. "It is our responsibility to help the chair apply and enforce the rules of this convention," Hoyer said describing the role of the convention parliamentarian.
"To that extent, I would advise the delegations that proxy voting is prohibited. If a pledged delegate is absent at the time of a vote, he or she must be replaced by an alternate," he said.
"During the convention, the parliamentarians will be available to respond to any of your questions about the order of proceedings, the methods of voting and the nature of the Dr and Mrs. Desai with Governor Mitt Romney California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaking at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, NC Kal Penn with First Lady Michelle Obama at Democratic Convention
proceedings. "Each delegation can call our office at any time, and a parliamentarian will always be on the podium and available for advice and counsel," Hoyer said. Smita Shah, according to publicly available documents, has been a major donor for the Obama Campaign and the Democratic Party. She has donated more than $70,000 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 and another equal amount to the Democratic party.
A licensed Professional Engineer, Shah founded Spaan Tech in 1998 and has pioneered its growth into a multi-million dollar Engineering, Construction Management and Program Management firm with special expertise in infrastructure projects including: roads, highways, airports, and buildings. In an unprecedented move, four Indian Americans took prime-time spotlights at this year's Republican National Convention. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley — earlier hinted as a possible running mate for Romney — took center stage on the evening of Aug. 28 and bashed the president for "fighting American ingenuity."
California congressional challenger Ricky Gill —widely considered a rising Republican Party star—was delayed by a day from delivering his speech at the convention by the expected onslaught of Hurricane Isaac, which partially set back the RNC's planned agenda. In his brief address on the afternoon of Aug. 28, Gill characterized California's Central Valley – from where he is running—as "a cautionary tale of false policies."
Gill, a 25-year-old grabbed attention of many with an impressive speech over a range of policy issues during party's ongoing convention in Tampa.
"Good afternoon. My name is Ricky Gill, and I am humbled to stand before you as a Republican nominee for Congress and a proud son of California's San Joaquin Valley." "My parents immigrated to the valley from India and Africa with only their love for each other, a strong work ethic and the enduring desire to pursue their American dream. We all work hard in the valley, and we're proud to live there," he said.
Addressing thousands of party colleagues amid applauds, Gill noted that people in US were "suffering" due to faulty policies, Gill said the US faces crippling unemployment and foreclosures, even the bankruptcy of Stockton, the largest city.
"Young people leave or drop out of school to help their families make ends meet," he alleged. "The valley is a cautionary tale of failed policies, not false ambitions. No one in this country dreams of dependency. No one hopes for mediocrity. We are ready again to seize the measure of our ambitions not because the government says we can but because we believe we can," he said.
"We need a new generation of leadership to chart the path, to fight for policies that create jobs rather than red tape and to help small businesses succeed rather than helping green energy companies fail," Gill said.
Political analysts believe Gill getting a chance to speak at this young age is indicative of his bright future in the Republican Party. The Indian-American has also received endorsement from top Republican party leadership which include former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and New Jersey and South Carolina Governors Chris Christie and Nicki Halley respectively.
The New York Times has put Gill in the category of a "Democratic toss up", which means that the seat is no longer safe for incumbent Jerry McNerney and the Democratic party risks the chance of losing the seat. Also in the limelight at the RNC were Milwaukee, Wisc., businessman Yash Wadhwa, who spoke on the convention floor Aug. 29. Wadhwa, who helmed an engineering consultancy firm for 22 years and is now running for a seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly, said Obama's failed economic policies had turned the nation into a "tent city."
And Ishwar Singh, president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida, made history as he delivered an invocation on the final night of the RNC, becoming the first-ever Sikh American to address a national convention from either party.
The Indian Americans at Republican Convention slammed President Obama over policy issues. Identifying herself as the proud daughter of Indian immigrants, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took a dig at US President Barack Obama for suggesting that business owners can't claim credit for their success. Delivering a prime time speech during the Republican national convention, Haley recollected the success story of the business of her parents.
"I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants, who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every single day how blessed we were to live in this country. They loved the fact that only in America, we could be as successful as we wanted to be and nothing would stand in our way," Haley said.
She said that Obama, in a campaign-trail comment recently, said, "If you have got a business, you did not built that," suggesting they can't claim credit for their businesses. "My parents started a business out of the living room of our home and, 30-plus years later, it was a multi-million dollar company. "So, President Obama, with all due respect, don't tell me that my parents didn't build their business," Haley said in her speech in the presence of thousands of party men in Tampa, and being watched live over nationwide. "Almost 45 years after my parents first became Americans, tonight I stand before you and them as the proud Governor of the state of South Carolina," she said.
Haley said Romney is results driven. "He's taken broken companies and made them successful. He took a failing Olympics and made it a source of pride for our country. He went into a Democratic state, cut taxes, brought in jobs and improved education," she said adding that he actually balanced his budget. Another highprofile Indian American attendance at the RNC was that of Dr. Akshay Desai.
In August Romney named his top party fundraiser Dr. Akshay Desai, chief executive officer of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Universal Health Care Group, Inc., one of seven national co-chairs of his newly formed "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Romney" committee.