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[Series] South Asians Spicing Up Politics: Tara Sreekrishnan


  1. What experience led you to public service?

My mother. Even as a young girl, I admiringly watched my mother’s genuine dedication to public service – pensive with ambitious optimism that I might someday emulate her community-oriented passion. She worked hard in the Cupertino public school system as a librarian, volunteer organizer, and fundraiser. Right out of college, I set out to work as a grassroots organizer for progressive campaigns, and later as a policy aid in City Government. While I no doubt enjoyed the ability to uplift candidates with the capacity to truly improve people's’ lives, I never thought I’d be running myself. But my roots are ultimately here in this great city that gave me the tools to succeed. I consider myself enormously privileged to have grown up in Cupertino. And now I want to give back to this vibrant, diverse community, such that others can thrive like I was able to, even if they are not the absolute wealthiest. I also feel compelled by these particularly pressing times, as we see the truly profound ramifications of a Trump administration. We need young, bright minds – especially women – ready to take up the mantle. Last year we marched. But now we need to run, such that we reshape and reclaim our government so it works for ordinary people.

2. What role has your South Asian identity played in your political perspective?

I come from a generation of young “Cupertinans” who were born and raised in this great city to immigrant parents. Families have immigrated across the world to set their roots in Cupertino because we are home to one of the highest-achieving public school systems in the nation, a first-class community college, and the largest tech company in the world - Apple. In spite of all of this, Cupertino is still able to stay a quiet and attractive residential town with beautiful open spaces and safe streets. But now these same newer generations feel the pressing anxiety of whether they can afford to live here long-term. The South Asian American community is no different than any other immigrant community dealing with assimilation into the mainstream and making their American dreams come true by having a good job, settling down in a safe and vibrant community with good schools, raising kids with good values and making sure that they have the same or better chance than my generation had.

3. What advice do you have for South Asians who might run for office?

A piece of advice I’d offer – never forget your roots. We all have untapped political potential within ourselves, even though we typically aren’t always represented in the highest edifices. But the greatest power comes through your community. Running for office is beyond stressful, and will stretch you to limits previously thought impossible. The support of family, friends, and community members will constantly remind you why you felt compelled to run in the first place.

4. Why should South Asian Americans vote?

South Asians need to band together to have a unified voice so we are seen as an emerging, vocal and powerful voting block that counts. We have so many thought leaders, scholars and influencers that we need to tap into to - their diverse and innovative ideas can shape the politics and policies of tomorrow.

#SeriesSpicingUpPolitics

© The Washington Leadership Program 2017 by Shaunak Turaga