VP’s Helpers: Close aides of Vice President Kamala Harris share their journey

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Rohini Kosoglu, domestic policy advisor to V.P. Harris and deputy assistant to the President, seen in a Twitter message with Vice President Kamala Harris (photo on left) and Harris and President Biden (Photo on right). Photo: Twitter.

Vice President Kamala Harris is known for her encouragement and support for the Asian American community to which she belongs, being the first Indian-American to become the second-in-command in the Biden administration. Harris has also tried to infuse her close-knit team of advisors and assistants with a diversity rarely matched before this.

That may be why Glamour magazine featured some of her top aides who happen to be of Indian, and Sri Lankan heritage, with at least two of them having close connections to New Jersey.

Early on Biden when still the President-elect had promised an administration that looked like America, and expressly stated that his Vice President, who is both African and Indian in origin, would do the same.

“From the beginning, Vice President-elect Harris and I have sought to build an administration that looks like America,” Biden said. “Building a diverse team will lead to better outcomes and more effective solutions to address the urgent crises facing our nation.”

Glamour, in its July 4, 2021 issue, features Indian-Americans Opal Vadhan of New Jersey, personal aide to Harris; and Sabrina Singh of Los Angeles, former press officer for New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and now deputy press secretary; as well as Sri Lankan American Rohini Kosoglu, domestic policy advisor to V.P. Harris and deputy assistant to the President.

Also featured are Afghan-American Nasrina Bargzie, associate counsel to the Vice President; and Chinese American Josh Hsu, counsel to Harris.

Opal Vadhan, personal aide to VP Kamala Harris. Photo: twitter @Sabrina Singh46

For Opal Vadhan, 27, life in the White House began early with an internship 7 years ago in 2014. She told Glamour she had never been political but getting the prestigious internship changed her life.

“I hadn’t voted, I didn’t come from a political family, but my supervisor at MSNBC—where I was interning as a broadcast journalist—told me I would be great at it,” Vadhan told Glamour, adding, “It made me realize that I didn’t just want to tell the stories to help people; I wanted to be a part of the change and truly make a difference.”

VP Kamala Harris celebrating the birthday of her personal aide Opal Vadhan July 17, 2021.Photo courtesy family of Opal Vadhan

Like a lot of other Indian-Americans in political campaigns and as strategists, former First Lady and later U.S. Senator Hillary Rodhan Clinton, was a mentor. And so it was with Vadhan, who worked as executive assistant and trip director for Clinton.

As Vice President Harris’ personal aide, Vadhan has the privilege of traveling with the VP and ensuring all appointments and arrangements are on course.

Growing up, Vadhan told Glamour she never thought it was possible to be where she is today, because no one even on TV looked like their family. But things have changed so that she is now working cheek by jowl with the first woman of color Vice President in the history of the country, a daughter of immigrants like she herself is.

“I think it just goes to show that the American dream is totally alive and well in this country,” Vadhan told Glamour.

Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary to VP Kamala Harris. Photo Twitter Sabrina Singh

Sabrina Singh, unlike Vadhan, was political since she was in elementary school, she told Desi Talk in an interview in August 2019, when she was the national press secretary for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s presidential campaign. She later joined the campaign of Andrew Yang, and finally ended up with Harris, and is now her deputy press secretary at the White House.

She spoke proudly of her heritage that goes back to her famous grandfather Jagjit (J.J.) Singh, who she told News India Times in an earlier interview, has remained an inspiration for her, and especially so in a time when those anti-immigrant sentiments may be rearing their head. Jagjit (J.J.) Singh, is described in scholarly studies as “a successful merchant, Manhattan socialite, Indian nationalist and the President of the Indian League of America.” (Abstract of the thesis by Neilah Shah of Haverford College, entitled – TheLuce-Celler Act of 1946: White Nationalism, Indian Nationalism and the Cosmopolitan Elite).

In her Glamour interview as well, Singh spoke of her grandfather who left India following political protests when the British put out a call for his arrest, had continued his activism when lobbying the U.S. Congress for citizenship for people of Indian descent.

“The first job I had in D.C. was as a staff assistant on The Hill, and I worked in the Rayburn House office building. As I walked through the Cannon and Longworth buildings, it struck me that these were the same hallways that my grandfather would walk to lobby Congress for citizenship,” Singh told Glamour.

Rohini Kosuglu, domestic policy advisor to VP Kamala Harris and deputy assistant to President Biden. Photo: Harvard.edu

Rohini Kosoglu always dreamed of working in the White House, she told Glamour. Starting from the mailroom in the U.S. Senate to mentorships in senators’ offices, Kosoglu was made an offer she could not refuse – chief of staff to then Sen. Kamala Harris.

Holding one of the most critical jobs as domestic policy advisor, Kosoglu told Glamour her work entails analyzing various options and breaking down each to assess the benefits and costs before the Vice President can make a decision on the best policy to follow in any domestic issue whether it be Child Tax Credit or childcare.

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