One of the most poignant moments during the four-day Republican National Convention that ended Aug. 27, 2020, was the naturalization ceremony of an Indian software engineer Sundari Narayanan, and four others from different parts of the world, at the White House.
Her bright pink sari with the green and gold border will forever stand in the minds of every Indian and Indian-American who watched the 3rd night of the GOP Convention, or saw the replay, even as the debate about the legality of holding a ceremony granting citizenship as a political campaign event in the White House goes on.
There can be little doubt that those five individuals hailing from India, Bolivia, Lebanon, Ghana, and Sudan, experienced one of the most solemn occasions when their lives were about to change. And this time, it was before the eyes of the whole nation.
On the opening night, former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Randhawa Haley set expectations high within the Indian-American Republican community. And though not as many of them were featured during the convention, statements made by these GOP members, amply revealed their allegiance to President Trump.
In his acceptance speech made on the White House grounds, Trump set the stage for a fight between what he saw as Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ‘socialism’ and American capitalism, as a stark choice for voters come November 3.
“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies or two agendas. This election will decide if we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny,” said President Trump.
“President Trump is the right choice for the future of our country because he is building the greatest economy our nation has ever seen,” said Ohio State Rep. Niraj Antani, in his video clip played at the Convention. “Students and millennials want to graduate into an economy where they can work in their field and achieve their American Dream. The Obama-Biden economy will take us back and that’s why we need President Trump for a second term,” said Antani, who was touted by the GOP in a tweet, saying “Meet a Rising Star of the GOP! Niraj is working to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain – & like so many Americans, he knows that getting @realDonaldTrump re-elected is the FIRST step!” Antani who is in his third term, was the youngest elected Indian-American official in the country and one of the youngest Republican elected officials in Ohio, as he noted.
“It was a great speech. The content was delivered effectively and set a sharp contrast with Biden and the choice before us,” said Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media which publishes News India Times. “It was a very nationalistic speech – putting America first, pointing to successfully re-negotiated trade deals, making European countries pay their fair share, plus the fact that there was no new war in the last four years of his administration,” Dr. Parikh said adding that he like the plan to reduce taxes, grow economy (before the coronavirus pandemic) back to where it was, and building a better, stronger America.
KV Kumar, president and CEO of the Indian American International Chamber of Commerce found President Trump’s speech “very powerful”.
“He stated the important accomplishments and the differences between his administration and what it would be like in a Vice President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris administration,” Kumar said, adding the following points which struck him as important: “The President also mentioned immigration reform, vaccination for COVID-19 before the end of the year; border security, undrest in several cities and states, and support for the police. He spoke of energy independence, defense and space development, and free speech on college campuses.”
Hemant Bhatt, co-founder of South Asian Republican Coalition, considers Republican values similar to those of South Asian Americans. “I loved the Convention and the speeches,” said Bhatt who is on the Trump campaign’s Coalition Advisory Board for Indian Voices for Trump, a recently formed group.
“We have a leader and Commander in Chief who is giving a lot of hope and inspiration, giving the positive side of the country. I listened to the Democratic Convention also – and it sounded like America has died! America has no future!,” Bhatt said, adding, “I have no problem with criticism but the criticism should be very constructive and they should come out with an alternative. But they do not have that.”
Long time Republican Sampat Shivangi of Mississippi, an elected delegate to the GOP convention and member of the Trump National Campaign Board, speaking in his personal capacity, said the speeches by all speakers were “terrific” starting from the first day when Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed the convention and the finale delivered by President Trump.
“Now the President’s campaign recognizes the importance of Indian-Americans, you can see from the number of outreach groups they have formed – Indian Americans for Trump, Hindus for Trump, Muslims for Trump, Sikhs for Trump, etc.. They are seeing us differently,” Shivangi said.
An example of Shivangi’s views was when one of the main speakers at the GOP Convention, Kimberley Guilfoyle, tweeted scenes from the Howdy Modi! event of September 2018 in Houston, just a few days before the GOP convention Aug. 22, 2020. The video showed India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump together. Guilfoyle commented, “America enjoys a great relationship with India and our campaign enjoys great support from Indian Americans!”
Adi Sathi, a Republican strategist based in Michigan, has been appearing on news shows including U.K’s BBC and Canada’s CBC and Indian publications, to comment on the Convention and President Trump’s record. He was recognized by Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who tweeted, “Thank you for speaking up and all your hard work, @adisathi.”