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Indian American Lawmakers, Political Activists and Celebrities Reflect on Biden-Harris Inauguration

Indian American Lawmakers, Political Activists and Celebrities Reflect on Biden-Harris Inauguration

  • Several took to social media to post photos, videos, memories and messages for both Biden and Harris, expressing hope and positivity during a time of uncertainty, crisis and divisiveness.

As Joe R. Biden and Kamala Devi Harris were sworn-in as the President and Vice President of the United States of America, people took to social media to offer their congratulations. The significance of Biden’s presidency was not lost on world leaders, politicians, those nominated and named to the Biden-Harris administration as well as on regular Americans. 

Indian Americans across the board took to social media to post photos, videos, memories and messages for both Biden and Harris, expressing hope and positivity during a time of uncertainty, crisis and divisiveness. Many South Asian Americans celebrated the historical moment of Harris being the first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President of the United States of America as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore her into office just before noon.

Leading the congratulatory messages was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a tweet he wrote: “My warmest congratulations to @JoeBiden on his assumption of office as President of the United States of America. I look forward to working with him to strengthen India-US strategic partnership. My best wishes for a successful term in leading USA as we stand united and resilient in addressing common challenges and advancing global peace and security.” 

In another tweet he wrote: “The India-US partnership is based on shared values. We have a substantial and multifaceted bilateral agenda, growing economic engagement and vibrant people to people linkages. Committed to working with President  @JoeBiden to take the India-US partnership to even greater heights.”

Modi also took to Facebook to congratulate Harris: “Congratulations to Kamala Harris on being sworn-in as vice president. It is a historic occasion. Looking forward to interacting with her to make India-USA relations more robust. The India-USA partnership is beneficial for our planet.”

There has been speculation among many Trump and Modi supporters about the nature of U.S.-India relations under the Biden-Harris administration. Last September, Trump and Modi showered praises on each other in their addresses at the ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston attended by over 50,000 Indian-Americans. This February, during his maiden visit to India, Trump complimented Modi and highlighted India’s achievements as well as the contributions of Indian Americans in the U.S.  

Congress leader and Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi, also took to Twitter to congratulate the new team. “Congratulating the USA on a new chapter of their democracy,” he wrote. “Best wishes to President Biden and Vice-President Harris.”

Samosa Caucus

Also taking to social media were members of the ‘Samosa Caucus’ in the U.S. Congress. “A new beginning for our nation,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote on his Facebook page. “President Biden brought an empathy and generosity of spirit that has been sorely missing. Ready to get to work with President Biden and Vice President Harris to heal our country and ensure that every American has a dignified life,” Khanna wrote. 

Similarly, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also took to social media to congratulate Biden and Harris. “Madam Vice President Kamala Devi Harris!! As the first South Asian American woman elected to the House, I’m deeply proud to call Kamala Harris OUR Vice President—the first woman, first South Asian American, and first Black woman to hold this position of public trust. A powerful moment in history! Sharing an ope-ed she wrote in the Los Angeles Times titled “Kamala Harris’ immigrant family story is an inspiring reminder of why we need to vote out Trump.”

In another post, she wrote: “This inauguration reminds us that the power is in OUR hands; and when we exercise that power, there is nothing that can stop us. Historic change has come to America — and we’re just getting started.  As I watched President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris take the oath of office, I thought about all of those who persisted and resisted over the last four years. Today is only possible because of them — because of all of us. But our organizing does not end today; it is all the more important now that we have a Democratic White House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic House. I look forward to fighting alongside you every step of the way.”

Their colleague, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) posted a photo of him on Facebook at the Capitol Hill building on Inauguration Day. “It was a true honor to represent the great people of California’s 7th Congressional District #CA07 at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.,” Bera wrote in his Facebook post. “Today starts a new and bright chapter in our nation’s history as we turn the page on the darkness of the past four years. We face many great challenges – from mending our democracy and defeating this pandemic, to rebuilding our economy and restoring American leadership abroad. I’m confident that President Biden has the empathy, compassion, and experience that is needed to lead our country in this critical moment in our history. Now begins the hard, but necessary task of healing our country and delivering results for the American people. Let’s go to work!”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi at the Inauguration,

Joining Bera was Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who shared a photo of him at Capitol Hill as well. “Today, it was an honor to celebrate the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. As we open this new chapter in our nation’s history, I am humbled to witness this historic transfer of power and to help forge a new path towards recovery and healing for all Americans,” he wrote.

Kentucky State Rep. Nima Kulkarni, in a Jan. 20 Facebook post wrote: “Today, Biden will be sworn in on the Capitol steps, where exactly two weeks ago a violent mob stormed the building in an attempt to overthrow the results of a free and fair election. Kamala Devi Harris will be sworn in as the first Black, South Asian and female vice president by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice, on a Bible that belonged to Justice Thurgood Marshall.On day one, Biden will revoke the executive orders for the Muslim travel ban and the border wall, and introduce sweeping immigration reforms that have stalled in Congress for decades. Sounds like a good start.”

Representing the few Indian Americans who served in Trump’s cabinet was Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. and former South Carolina governor. “Inauguration Day is an amazing day in America,” Haley tweeted. “Thank you to President & Mrs. Trump and Vice Pres & Mrs. Pence for your service to our country. It was an honor to serve with you.  Michael and I wish President and Mrs. Biden well.  Every president’s success is America’s success.”

Celebrities Rejoice

For several Indian Americans, Harris’ swearing-in was a significant sign of being represented. It is historic and hopeful, paving the way for many young women of color dreaming of breaking glass ceilings and barriers. Many watched the inauguration on television with their children – sons and daughters – soaking in the moment. 

Chef, author and host Padma Lakshmi posted a photo of she and daughter watching the inauguration on television with the caption: “Glad I lived to see the day.”

Mindy Kaling also shared a photo of her daughter watching the inauguration on TV. “It matters. Happy Inauguration everyone,” she captioned the photo. 

Mindy Kaling tweeted a photo of her daughter watching Kamala Harris taking oath of office.

Attorney and filmmaker Valerie Kaur, in a tweet, said: “An oath is sacred. An oath is transition. An oath is a new beginning. I hold Kavi close and show him the power of words and witness. “Why are you crying, Mommy.” Kaur will be offering a Sikh prayer at the President’s Inaugural Prayer Service on Jan. 21. 

New York State Sen. Jeremey Cooney shared a photo of himself as a young boy alongside a photo of Harris. “During the inaugural oath… when the @VP said Kamala DEVI Harris, I felt immense pride,” he tweeted. “This amazing Black and South Asian woman will inspire once little brown kids like me, and those in the future, to dream bigger in America.”

Cooney tweeted a “proud desi shoutout” to Vinay Reddy, “the NEW President’s speechwriter, who played a big role in today’s inaugural address”

Similarly, Michigan State Rep. Ranjeev Puri shared a drawing of Harris and Biden. “This day means so much for our kids and our future,” he tweeted. In another tweet, he wrote: “Democracy has prevailed.”

North Carolina State Rep. Jay Chaudhuri shared a photo on his social media handles of his daughter watching the inauguration, with the caption, “Hope again!”

In a series of tweets, Chaudhuri expressed his feelings on the historic day. “The last 4 years has taught us that our democracy is fragile, and that our democracy is an experiment. We can never take our democracy for granted,”In another tweet, he wrote: “There’s optimism in @KamalaHarris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, to become the Vice President of the United States. There’s optimism in the heroic poll workers who held an election with the greatest voter turnout in recent history.”

Some like Montgomery Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer channeled their dest roots in honoring the day. Sharing her photo in a salwar kameez, Jaffer wrote on Facebook: “Over the past 4 years I often tried to draw upon the strength of my ancestors by wearing traditional clothing. Happy to see a dark chapter in our nation’s history come to a close due to the hard work of so many. Celebrating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris today!”

Posting a photo of herself next to a television image of Biden, Middlesex County Freeholder Shanti Narra wrote in a Facebook post: “Yes! 46 – otherwise known as President Joe Biden.I missed taking a shot with Vice-President Kamala Harris (who the pearls are in honor of today) because a Judge called one of my cases in virtual court at exactly the moment she was getting sworn in. (I know, I know Kenny Armwood and Charlie Kenny – my public defender job strikes again). I’ll just have to watch it over and over and over on DVR.”

Vermont State Sen. Kesha Ram shared a photo with Harris. “Madame Vice President Kamala Devi Harris. This is us. I, too, am America,” she wrote. 

Attorney Suraj Patel of New York posted a video of crowds cheering as Harris and Biden took both. “Cheers spontaneously erupting all over NYC, all of my neighbors are getting all of their instruments out and just playing whatever they want,” he wrote. “It’s finally over and it’s all just beginning.” Last August, Patel lost his highly-contentious Democratic primary race in New York’s 12th Congressional District against long-serving New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Political scientist Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside, posted a photo of a kolam his mother drew on Jan. 20 morning, marking the historic inauguration of Kamala Harris as vice president. He offered a translation to the design: “Best wishes, Kamala” with symbols of a lotus and pitcher that typically accompany images of Kamala Devi. 

Kolam is a traditional Indian art form of drawing geometric patterns on the floors. In D.C., more than 1,800 people from the U.S. and India participated on Jan. 16 in an online initiative to create thousands of Kolam designs to celebrate Harris’ historic inauguration. “In Tamil Nadu, where Harris has roots, women draw Kolams on the ground to invite health and prosperity into houses where they are displayed,” a NDTV report said. 

California Assemblyman Ash Kalra posted a video of his father on Twitter. “My dad’s brief reaction to the Inauguration. By the way, my father feels a connection with Kamala not only because she’s Indian and that he’s had a chance to meet her, but also his late mother’s name is Mangala Devi.  Two Devis (which means goddess in Hindi) he admires!”

Asha Rangappa, a senior lecturer at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs received a sigh of relief after the swearing-in ceremony ended. “I’ll admit I was nervous about Biden doing his inauguration outdoors,” she tweeted. “But now I’m so glad he did — it was exactly what we needed after the horror of 1/6. Thanks to all the law enforcement and National Guard troops that helped make it happen safely. ” Rangappa served as a special agent in the New York Division of the FBI, specializing in counterintelligence investigations.

Those nominated and named to various positions in the Biden-Harris administration also shared their hopes, joy and commitment to serve in the new government. 

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Neera Tanden, who is nominated as director of the Office of Management and Budget posted a picture of her masked at the Capitol Hill with the caption “hopeful.”

Earlier on Jan. 20 morning, she wrote: “At the dawn of a new day, I’m feeling optimistic. And filled with hope.”

Vanita Gupta, who is nominated as Associate Attorney General took to Twitter to acknowledge all frontline workers. “To all who worked everyday this election season to protect voter access, protect the count, and protect the decision of voters, thank you,” she wrote. “You are election workers, officials, lawyers, activists, organizers. You are democracy workers and patriots,” she wrote. 

In another tweet, Gupta quoted the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis. “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

Gautam Raghavan , who serves as the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, tweeted: “On Day One of the Biden-Harris administration, 1 in 3 incoming appointees is an immigrant or a child of immigrants.This immigrant — and proud naturalized citizen — is ready to get to work for @JoeBiden @KamalaHarris& the American people.”

Joining Raghavan was Sabrina Singh, the new White House Deputy Secretary. “First day and ready to get to work for @POTUS and @VP to build back better,” she tweeted.

Indian Americans who worked behind the scenes to support South Asian American candidates down the ballot and mobilize voters expressed their pleasure with the results. 

“We have never failed in America when we’ve acted together,” tweeted Neil Makhija, executive director of Impact (Indian American Political Fund). “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a total war. We can reject the culture in which facts are manipulated and manufactured.  We will be better than this.”

Shekar Narasimhan, chairman at the AAPI Victory Fund echoed the sentiment of millions of Americans in his Facebook post. “The sun just came out in America,” he wrote. “We will be whole again.”  His colleague at AAPI Victory Fund, President Varun Nikore tweeted: “Yes, we did organize like hell and now our day did come!”

Some resorted to humor to highlight the consequence of the new government and the exit of Trump and his associates. Political analyst Mehdi Hasan tweeted: “Stephen Miller no longer works at the White House.”

Alluding to Trump’s exit, actor Aasif Mandvi tweeted: “There is something so satisfying about hearing the word “former” before the words “Trump administration”

Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in a tweet posted on Jan. 19, a day before the inauguration, said: “Memorials matter. There has been no center of grief during this pandemic. The virus has kept us apart, meaning so much of our unimaginable loss has taken place behind closed doors. We haven’t been able to share our grief.”

(Anu Ghosh also contributed to this report)

Bhargavi Kulkarni has been a journalist for nearly two decades. She has a degree in English literature and French. She is also an adventure sport enthusiast, and in her free time, she likes to cook, bake, bike and hike.

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