WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Earlier this month, more than 200 Indian American candidates, elected officials, among others gathered in Washington for the inaugural Impact Summit, an effort to build a long term political network for the diaspora. All five Indian American members of Congress spoke at this event that was sponsored in part by Diya TV. Below is a transcript of an interview conducted on site by Ravi Kapur with Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris for our public affairs program “The Public Interest,” edited for clarity.
Q: We just had the California primary and turnout was really low. Given the political environment that you see here in Washington, now in your role as a senator, do you feel that folks are just uninspired to come out to vote, no matter who the candidate is?
A: Actually, I don’t. I’ve been seeing a level of activeness and participation that actually gives me a lot of optimism about our future. I’ve been seeing young people, teenagers, middle school students who are coming out, who are thinking about issues, who are speaking about issues. You look at those kids from Parkland, Florida, high school students, and what that has excited around high school students around the country to speak up about issues like gun violence. You look at the dreamers and the DACA kids who are coming by thousands to the United States Capitol, walking the halls of Congress to speak about immigration policy. If you look at all the young people, in particular, who are coming out to talk about issues linked to disparities around race or economic disparities and inequalities.
I actually am very excited about what I have been seeing — a record number of women who are running for office, many whom have never run for office before. So I think there is something about this very difficult moment of time, which is where we are right now, where we have powerful voices that are sowing hate and division. The other side of that is activating a lot of people to say, ‘I’m not going to stand for it. I’m going to get out. I’m going to stand up. I’m going to stand up. I’m going to speak out.’ So I think it’s very exciting and the only thing I would ask everyone, and all of your viewers, is stay involved. Stay involved because your issues will not be heard if you don’t stay involved, if you don’t speak out. You can speak through your vote, you can speak through your voice, but get involved in elections, campaigns. Look up candidates, whoever speaks up to your values and your issues, but stay involved. That’s how democracy works. And we won’t be seen if we’re not heard.
Q: Speaking of involvement, you’re the first Indian American woman ever to hold a Senate seat. A lot of folks look to you for inspiration. What message do you impart to all these young folks who aspire to be where you are today?
A: That they just keep in their role of leadership, keep speaking about truths, speaking about truths, even if they are difficult to speak, even if they are difficult for people to hear because that’s how we cultivate trust. That’s how we actually forge ahead in terms of the kind of leadership we need. We need to speak difficult truths, whether it be about race, whether it be about income equality, whether it be about gender equality. Let’s speak the truth about the things we want to see happen, around the topic of immigration reform and to stay involved. It’s really important.
Q: It appears many Democrats and Republicans are not necessarily talking to each other, but rather over each other. How do we get more folks involved and engaged in politics so they are not talking over each other? Also, do you have a game plan for 2020? President Trump said he is running again and Democrats are still looking for that national leader fill the void.
A: Part of what we have to do is focus on 2018. That’s where I’m focused at the moment. I think we have to focus on 2018. The re-elections are coming soon, 152 days, I think, from today (June 7). And the decisions we make about who will be in these positions of progress, whether it be in the Senate or the House of Representatives, will be very important and pivotal to issues like what we are going to do around immigration for this country. So I really urge people to stay focused on 2018.
Watch all of the interviews from the Impact Summit on The Public Interest with Ravi Kapur, Sunday at 9 am & 5 pm local time, exclusively on Diya TV.