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Post WLP 2021: The WLP Summer- A Journey of Immense Learning and Love

“I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.” This call to action Bobby Kennedy proclaimed to the youth of the 1960s still rings true 50 years later, and it is this ideology that led me and so many others to take on careers in public service. Yet, the path towards this dream seemed insurmountable before this summer. South Asian Americans as elected officials? As community organizers? As judges, advocates, political appointees? I wasn’t sure how my lofty dreams of empowering disenfranchised voices would be hindered by the color of my skin.

WLP not only alleviated these concerns, this community inspired me to move forward with a new sense of purpose, passion, and pride in my values, goals, and identity. My first note of thanks unequivocally goes to the WLP Board, mentors, and alumni. I have truly felt valued and cared for this summer by everyone who has come before me, and that quality is rare among organizations of this scale. The speaker series that brought our cohort together about three times a week this summer was also truly transformative. Aside from the advice and knowledge these individuals shared with us, the symbolism of seeing so many South Asian Americans engage in such impactful careers was both touching and invigorating.

Despite all of these wonderful elements, my summer’s biggest takeaway is the cohort of individuals I now call some of my closest friends, advisors, and family. There’s a certain beauty in the fast pace of the WLP summer–the full-time workday followed by a speaker event followed by a brainstorm session on the cohort project–and the thread that held it all together was the loving sense of support we shared.

I felt a similar communal quality during my internship at USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Not only did I learn about data platforms, organizational operations, and conflict zones, I also gained a deep appreciation for the talented people leading our government's international relief efforts. In the face of simultaneous crises in Haiti and Afghanistan, the team’s leaders managed aid deployment with an admirable focus on efficiency and equity. I hope to collaborate with these inspiring individuals again in the future.

Returning to the University of Michigan this fall, I now have an enhanced toolkit of skills and advisors to work on issue areas I care about. In particular, I hope to improve levels of undergraduate civic engagement. Understanding how one’s own identity intersects with the political landscape will be instrumental in ensuring the initiatives I lead are ingrained in empathy–a value that is key to the WLP. Furthermore, I plan on encouraging political engagement within the South Asian American community through campaigns, advocacy organizations, and independent efforts in my own circles. As I pursue all of these post-WLP goals, I carry with me a lifetime of fond memories, unbreakable bonds, and a renewed faith in my journey as a politically-active South Asian American.

Karthik Nagappan


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