On Tuesday, the White House announced a slew of new nominations and appointments to the Trump administration. These “key additions” included two Indian Americans, Raj Shah and Manisha Singh, the latest instance of a relatively new, larger trend: the growing participation — and success — of Indian Americans in public service.
While the Indian-American community has been the wealthiest, most-educated minority in the U.S. for some time now, they’re only more recently experiencing wide-scale recognition in public life. Here are eight key Indian-American administrators rising through the ranks under President Donald Trump.
After the recent shuffle of his communications team, Trump appointed Shah principal deputy press secretary — who also continues to hold his post as deputy assistant to the president. In his new position, Shah is in the top echelon of the White House press shop. It was formerly held by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is now the press secretary and top presidential spokesperson.
In fact, Shah’s promotion makes him among the most senior Indian Americans in the Trump White House, outside of the federal administrative structure, where Nikki Haley tops the list as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a cabinet-rank office never before held by an Indian American.
Previously, Shah had served as deputy communications director. Having cofounded right-leaning opposition research firm America Rising, he was tasked to head opposition research in the Republican National Committee — in other words, dig up dirt on rivals — carrying out extensive research against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Currently in his 30s, and a Cornell graduate, Shah was born and raised in Connecticut but his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mumbai, with origins in Gujarat.
As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Haley is arguably the most visible Indian American in the Trump administration. Elected governor of South Carolina in 2010, Haley was the first Indian American woman ever to become a U.S. governor, and was both the first female governor and the first governor from an ethnic minority South Carolina had ever seen. She was also the youngest governor in the country during her tenure: She served two terms, from January 2011 to January 2017.
She’s been lauded as one of the most powerful and influential woman leaders in the U.S. Her name was dropped as a potential vice presidential candidate during more than one election season, and she’s even elicited media speculation that she could one day be the country’s first female president. But criticism around whether she is appropriately qualified for her role as UN Ambassador is also routinely leveled against her.
Born Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa to a Sikh family, Haley, 45, was raised in Bamberg, South Carolina, and has often spoken about how hers was the only Sikh family in the area at the time. Married to a Methodist, she converted to Christianity.
As the chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission, accomplished attorney Ajit Pai works on a wide variety of regulatory and transactional matters involving the cable, internet, TV, radio and satellite industries. He has served in various positions at the FCC since being appointed a commissioner by former President Barack Obama in May 2012, but it was Trump who made Pai FCC chief early this year, granting him full control over the agency.
Pai has been in the eye of the net neutrality storm given the FCC’s plans to roll back Obama-era regulations of high-speed internet providers, which were established to ensure an open internet where content is delivered to consumers at the same speed regardless of which company or website it is from. Tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter even led protests against Pai’s plans.
The son of Konkani immigrants from India, Pai, 44, was born in Buffalo, New York. He grew up in rural Parsons, Kansas, where both of his parents were doctors at the county hospital. He earned a B.A. from Harvard and a J.D. from the University of Chicago in where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.
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