Washington, DC – The only Indian American currently serving in Congress, Representative Ami Bera (D-CA), hopes to see an Indian American elected as the US President during his lifetime, as well as an increase in the number of House members and Senators elected from the community.
Bera spoke to India America Today on Wednesday (May 8) on the sidelines of the annual awards dinner for the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), which hosted Vice President Joe Biden as speaker.
Congressman Bera, who represents Sacramento County, California in the 113th Congress, said it was a “Great night at the APAICS Gala. The gathering of the broader Asian American community and then for the Indian American community tonight, this is a starting point for us to celebrate. As the only Indian American Congressman, it is something our entire Indian American community could celebrate.“
Bera, a first generation American and a physician, told India America Today, “My parents came here from Gujarat in 1958 and now to see their son get sworn in, today this has to be a starting point. We now have to open the door for the next generation, so in the next few years, we can celebrate four or five Indian American Congressmen.”
Hoping that the community would one day celebrate the election of the first Indian American Senator, Bera added that, “I would like to see in my lifetime, to have a real presidential celebration of the Indian American community. That’s something we could be really proud of.”
California Congressman Mike Honda (D), who was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by APAICS, told India America Today, “It is wonderful to be here at the APAICS Gala. APAICS’ purpose is to make sure we have for young people room for leadership and place them in different offices in Congress and other agencies.”
Congressman Honda, who has worked to combat racial profiling, said, “The mixture of different diasporas here – wonderful to see all of us here. When we see people from India and the subcontinent, it shows there is unity here and a sense of community in spite of our differences.”
During his keynote speech, US Vice President Joe Biden called on Asian Pacific Americans to continue fighting for their civil rights, noting that there was still discrimination in housing, employment, education, and access to healthcare, and that the community continues to be targeted in hate crimes.
Vice President Biden hoped that the immigration reform legislation would soon become law, saying, “As my grandpop would say, ‘with the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors,’ Congress will show the wisdom to pass the bipartisan immigration bill by the end of the summer, and I’m optimistic.”
Democrat Congresswoman Judy Chu from California introduced the vice president before he spoke and praised his commitment to issues of importance to Asian Americans. Making a humorous reference to a phrase Biden used onstage with President Obama when the Affordable Care Act was passed, Chu said, “I think I speak for all of us when I say that your presence here is a big flippin’ deal.
Amid the applause, Biden, who is famous for making gaffes while the microphones is on, said, “Thank you, for that generous and unfortunately sometimes accurate introduction. Thank God my mom wasn’t alive as that microphone picked up – oh, gosh! Beware of microphones.”
The annual awards dinner for APAICS, which President Barack Obama addressed last year, is a highlight of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The celebration of one the fastest-growing US immigrant communities, originally one week long when it was established in 1978, was extended to a full month in May of 1992.