Over 25 names that are helping to make history as the most diverse Cabinet ever.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
Last night, Kamala Harris made waves as the first female, the first African-American, and the first Asian-American Vice President in U.S. history, making fellow desis proud the world over. But less known but no less important are the picks for the administration that will support her and President Biden, hopefully bringing a breath of fresh air and sanity into the political sphere of one of the world’s biggest superpowers.
Making true on his promise of building the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history, Biden has appointed groundbreaking (at least for America) nominations in several posts, including a list of highly-qualified Indian Americans in a bid to, he assured everyone, “continue to rely on the Indian-American diaspora that keeps [the U.S. and India] together.” Here are the Indian American nominees who we hope will bring fresh perspective and ideas into their office.
Neera Tanden was nominated as the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the first woman of colour to proverbially hold the administration’s purse strings, a significant achievement in a world where women are still unable to open bank accounts in 72 countries. She had previously been an advisor to former Democratic presidents Obama and Clinton. Also in the financial sphere, Rohit Chopra will be the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who will look for ways to provide student loan relief to millions of Americans in debt.
Cholleti Vinay Reddy, a law graduate from Ohio who has roots in a village in Telangana, is Biden’s director of speechwriting, the eloquent mind behind Biden’s much-lauded inauguration speech.
An essential office during these times, Dr. Vivek Murthy will be the co-chair of the administration’s COVID taskforce, together with fellow Indian-Americans Dr. Atul Gawande and Dr. Celine Gounder, hopefully bringing pragmatic solutions and helping to arrest the spread of the virus that has already claimed over 400,000 lives in the U.S. alone. Health policy expert Vidur Sharma will also be joining the fight as the testing advisor in Biden’s COVID-19 Response Team.
Other nominees include LGBTQ+ advocate and liaison Gautam Raghavan as the Deputy Director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office; economic development expert Sameera Fazili as the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council (NEC); and in her team, Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the COVID-19 Congressional Oversight Commission, who was chosen as one of three new members of the NEC. Puneet Talwar, a key aide for former-President Obama in the Middle East is now only the second Indian-American to join the State Department, as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-military Affairs; and Kashmir-born Aisha Shah was nominated as the Partnerships Manager at the White House Office of Digital Strategy, a senior position in the increasingly-important digital team in the White House.
Other positions include lawyer and activist Kiran Ahuja nominated as part of the presidential transition Agency Review Team; Mala Adiga as policy director to First Lady Jill Biden while Garima Verma will be her Digital Director; and Uzra Zeya, a diplomat with over 25 years of experience, who will be rejoining the State Department as Under Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights, after she had resigned in protest against the former administration’s racial and gender bias.
The White House is also transitioning back to fact-based press briefings with the help of Assistant Press Secretary Vedant Patel and Deputy Press Secretary to the VP Sabrina Singh; while the nominee for Associate Attorney General is Vanita Gupta, a former civil rights lawyer and advocate of criminal justice reform.
With rejoining the Paris Agreement as one of his first Executive Orders, Biden is continuing his strong environmental stance by nominating Sonia Aggarwal as Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation.
The National Security Council (NSC) will see Shanthi Kalathil as the Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights, Tarun Chhabra as the Senior Director for Technology and National Security, and Sumona Guha as the Senior Director for South Asia. Meanwhile, the White House counsel will appoint as Associate Counsel Neha Gupta, while Reema Shah will serve as Deputy Associate Counsel.
Although we’re all excited to see more people of colour in key decision-making positions, at the end of the day what we really hope for is a return to logic, cooperation, and empathy in politics around the world, and we hope this new administration is the first step towards that.