[Series] South Asians Spicing Up Politics: Sri Preston Kulkarni
What experience led you to public service?
I first became involved with politics at a young age after seeing seeing the inequity between the my community and the neighborhood where I attended school. I grew up in a highly stratified area, and while being bused to school, I noticed that my school was located in a neighborhood that was significantly more privileged than the communities where I lived. So, at fifteen, I took responsibility for coordinating volunteer services across schools in Fort Bend and Harris Counties.
Three years later, my father contracted leukemia, so I dropped out of school to care for him. After he passed, I finished my education at the University of Texas at Austin and later got my dream public service job as a Foreign Service Officer, commissioned by Secretary of State Colin Powell. I served for fourteen years in six countries defending our nation’s interests and values abroad.
2. What role has your South Asian identity played in your political perspective?
Having a strong Hindu Indian background inculcated some fundamental values in me from a young age. As a result, I cherish my connection to my rich and vibrant culture while also embracing my responsibility as a South Asian in America to stand up for our community, our nation, and the values that we share. From a young age, my identity gave me an international perspective and forced me think about the ramifications of political actions on all groups—domestic or abroad.
It gave me a deep respect for all cultures and a thirst to learn new languages. I wanted to understand different perspectives. Having personally experienced being treated as a perpetual foreigner my own country, I wanted to build bridges, and to foster understanding and communication. This led me to become a diplomat in the foreign service, and now to run for office.
3. What advice do you have for South Asians who might run for office?
Lead by example, and advocate for others. Make politics personal, because it is.
4. Why should South Asian Americans vote?
Asian Americans are largely underrepresented in a government that benefits from their high education levels and economic contributions. Among Asian Americans, South Asians in particular vote less and hold fewer governmental positions. In an effort to increase their voter turnout, my campaign has actively reached out to South Asian Americans. Our staff speaks 13 languages, and we use that knowledge to reach out to citizens who have never been engaged before. As a result, we tripled Asian American turnout in our primary election. We can’t ignore the South Asian vote because because there’s an assumption that they won’t participate. If we want to raise awareness about the issues that affect us, we need to remember that change happens with the individual. That change begins with casting our vote in November.
Polls open November 6, 2018. Go Vote!