“Think like you don’t, and go where you aren’t.” This is a quote my dad told me after I graduated high school. To be honest, I am still on the path to understanding what this truly means; however, I believe I am beginning to figure it out here with the Washington Leadership Program.
After a very hectic, yet exciting first week here in D.C. with WLP, I did not know what week 2 had in store for me. Unlike week 1, we were not scheduled to have a plethora of events after work.
For me, this became a double-edged sword. On one hand, I love attending the WLP Events where we are privileged enough to meet with wonderful South Asian folx here in D.C. On the other hand, on days we have events, my day starts at 7 A.M. and I arrive home at 9 P.M. What I have learned through this is to focus my energy on the former; harness the privilege that WLP offers me. I am only going to be here for 2 months; therefore, I need to absorb as much insight and experience as possible. You cannot learn the things I have learned here through some textbook. They are real-world experiences. Relevant ones as well since we are learning about these careers, stories, and landscapes through a South-Asian lens.
On Monday, we were able to meet with Sonal Shah to hear about Social Innovation. Harin hyped her up quite a bit, and I can confidently state that she lived up to that hype. The driving point she made to us was to run for office at some point in our careers. There is not enough representation for South Asians in government and we should help change that moving forward. I believe that when it comes to running for office, people tend to get caught up in the illusion that the only positions that are prestigious or impactful are the more well-known positions: Congressman, Senator, President, etc. Sonal reminded us that State and Local Offices are also as fulfilling, if not more.
The highlight of the week, by far, had to be when I introduced Congressman Ami Bera at the CAPAC AAPI Intern Mixer. Before I begin, let me paint the scene. When Nisha and Harin emailed us about the event, I assumed that since it was a “mixer” with interns that it was more of a social, low-profile sort of event. I imagined something similar to a happy-hour, except full of interns. The night before the event, I receive and email from Nisha asking if I would like to introduce Congressman Bera at thereception. “Wait, Congressman Bera is going to be there? Also, it’s a reception? Wow, this must be a pretty big deal,” I thought to myself. Even after this, I was still not prepared for what was to come. I arrive at the event and, to my surprise, I see around 300 people in the room. There were also multiple APIA Congresswomen and Congressmen. Although I was a bit nervous after this sight, I think I pulled off the introduction pretty smoothly. At the end of the introduction, I stated how the Congressman gave me the best advice I had ever received. Although I did not say what that was at the reception, I will take the opportunity to do so now.
“In life, you are always going to come to a crossroads. Life is full of tough decisions. The challenge is not, however, deciding whether to choose option A or B. We always have a conviction about what the right decision is, a gut feeling. The challenge comes with finding the courage to go with your conviction. My advice to you…is to find that courage.”
Finally, to wrap up the week, I had agreed to volunteer for the reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Initially, my fellow WLP fellows and I thought that we only had to be there on Sunday and that was it. After being notified that there is also a mandatory dry-run on Friday, we were beginning to wonder whether we should still volunteer. Fortunately, I went with my conviction—peep the reference to the aforementioned piece of advice—and decided to remain a volunteer. Regardless of my stance on Prime Minister Modi’s policies, I knew I was presented the very unique opportunity to meet a head-of-state of a country. I was also able to meet a ton of cool people: SCRIPPS 2017 National Spelling Bee Winner, M. Night Shyamalan, Nina Davuluri (Miss America 2014), and many more.
Overall, it has been a wonderful week for me. It has definitely made me start to count down the weeks because I now understand the value of my time here. I hope for more experiences like these not only for these remaining weeks, but for the rest of my life.
Congressman Ami Bera’s Office
Pomona College ‘18