Shortly after winning the November 2020 US presidential polls, then president-elect Joseph Biden promised to pick a cabinet that will be “more representative of the American people than any other cabinet in history”. True to his word, Biden’s staffing decisions—both within and beyond the cabinet—reveal many firsts, such as the first Native American interior secretary and the first Black secretary of defense.
The growing clout of Indian Americans is visible more than ever as reports find, there are as many as 130 Indian Americans hold key roles and in many cases leading important departments in the US administration under Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Presidency. In doing so he has not only fulfilled his promise to the community that he had made as a presidential candidate in 2020, but also shattered the record of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had appointed more than 80 Indian-Americans and his previous boss Barack Obama, who had appointed over 60 Indian-Americans to key positions during his eight years of presidency.
Described as the best representation from the community that makes up around one per cent of the American population, the important roles they occupy speak for their talents, skills, resourcefulness and the many ways they have come to be recognized as thoughtful leaders and partners in contributing to continuing to keep and make the United States, the adopted land of theirs a great nation.
More than 40 Indian-Americans has been elected at various state and federal levels including four in the U.S. House of Representatives. Not to miss the more than 20 Indian-Americans leading top U.S. companies.
While the first-ever presidential appointment was done during the time of Ronald Regan, this time Biden has appointed Indian-Americans to almost all departments and agencies of his administration.
“Indian-Americans have been imbued with the sense of seva (service) and this is reflected in their enthusiasm to pursue positions in public service instead of the private sector,” Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, philanthropist and venture capitalist M. R. Rangaswami told PTI.
“The Biden administration has now appointed or nominated the largest group to date and needless to say we are proud of our people and their accomplishments for the United States,” Mr. Rangaswami said. Mr. Rangaswami is founder and head of Indiaspora, a U.S.-based global organization for Indian-origin leaders. Indiaspora keeps a track of Indian-origin leaders.
Biden, who has maintained a close relationship with the community since his Senator days, often jokes around about his Indian relationship. He made history in 2020 by selecting Indian-origin Kamala Harris as his running mate.
The list of Indian-Americans in the White House reflects that there would be only a few meetings inside the White House or in Mr. Biden’s Oval Office that would not have an Indian-American presence.
His speech writer is Vinay Reddy, while his main advisor on COVID-19 is Dr. Ashish Jha, his advisor on climate policy is Sonia Aggarwal, special assistant on criminal justice is Chiraag Bains, Kiran Ahuja heads the Office of Personnel Management, Neera Tanden is his senior advisor, and Rahul Gupta is his drug czar.
Last week when India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, hosted a reception at India House on the occasion of Independence Day, Indian-Americans from his administration were representing almost all major branches of the U.S. government.
Young Vedant Patel is now the Deputy Spokesperson at the Department of State, while Garima Verma is the Digital Director in the Office of the First Lady. Mr. Biden has also nominated several Indian-Americans to key ambassadorial positions.
Led by Indian-Americans Sunder Pichai of Google and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, there are over two dozen Indian-Americans heading U.S. companies. Among others include Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, Vivek Lall of General Atomics, Punit Renjen of Deloitte, Raj Subramaniam of FedEx.
There are nearly 4 million people of Indian descent living in the United States; over 1% of the total population of the country as of 2018. Indians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, and about 6% of the country’s foreign-born population is Indian, making them the second largest immigrant group in the country after Mexicans.
The very first Indians came to America when the British East India Company brought them over to the American colonies to work as servants. The next, more significant wave of Indians came in the 19th century, when a group of over 2,000 Sikhs came from both India and Canada for economic opportunities and to escape environmental, financial and racial issues, mostly settling in California.
Throughout the early 20th century, Indian and other Asian immigrants faced racial discrimination in the U.S., struggling to gain citizenship and property ownership rights. Indians began gaining social acceptance by pursuing higher education, gaining more employment opportunities and making their mark in various fields.
The largest wave of Indians immigrating to the US came with the new age of technology, with many Indians finding work in this sector, beginning in the 1990s when over 100,000 computer specialists from India came over to help with the Y2K concerns.
Being one of the largest immigrant populations in the United States, Indians have become a powerful force in various sectors, including tech, business and government. The prominence of Indians in the American political sphere is especially apparent this year, as Kamala Harris, a woman who is half Indian on her mother’s side, has become the Vice President of the United States.
However, it is not only in very recent years that Indians gained prominent government positions in the US. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund, an Indian born American man, became the first person of Asian descent to be elected to Congress. According to reports, more than 40 Indian-Americans have been elected to various offices across the country. Four are in the House of Representatives — Dr. Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal. This includes four Mayors.