On Tuesday, members of the 115th U.S. Congress were sworn in, and that includes the quintet nicknamed the “Fab Five” by Hindustan Times: Senator Kamala Harris, and Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna, and Ami Bera. All five are Democrats in a Republican majority Congress, all but Bera are new members of Congress, and all have desi roots connecting them by birth and/or parents to Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Punjab, and Gujarat.
At an Indiaspora-organized event coinciding with their swearing-in date, Jayapal spoke of the significance of her win in broader terms, as reported by The Hindu:
“This country belongs to all of us. My victory has inspired confidence in many young women and I hope a whole new generation of political people rises among us.”
The Economic Times reported Krishnamoorthi’s comments at the same event, speaking to those hoping to enter politics:
“For all of those in the audience tonight who are thinking about running for office, there is no better time than now. You have role models, we have play book. It’s time to get started.”
Read on for more on each of the Fab Five, and for images from their first moments as new members of Congress.
Born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from India and Jamaica, California’s Kamala Devi Harris, 52, became the first Indian American senator and the second African American woman senator to take the oath of office. Watch C-Span’s video clip to see her ceremonial swearing in with Vice President Joe Biden and her extended family and friends present.
Harris served six years as the state’s Attorney General, and she is known for advocating for criminal justice reform and marriage equality. Her Senate committee assignments include the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and offer her the chance to play an influential role. She has been referred to as the “next Barack Obama” and one of the Democrats who could defeat Trump and become the first woman President.
Born in Chennai and raised in Indonesia and Singapore, Pramila Jayapal, 51, came to the U.S. for college when she was 16. Her career in activism includes founding the non-profit OneAmerica after the 9/11 attacks to counter anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant backlash, and she served as Washington state senator.
On Tuesday Jayapal, who represents Washington’s 7th congressional district, became the House’s first Indian American congresswoman. After her formal group swearing-in, she took a ceremonial photo with House Speaker Paul Ryan (video), with her husband Steve Williamson and son Janak present, and her mother, writer Maya Jayapal, who flew in from Bangalore for the occasion. The congresswoman told Ryan she was looking forward to working with him on immigration.
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Raja Krishnamoorthi, 42, represents the 8th district of Illinois. He’s an attorney who worked on Obama’s 2000 House and 2004 Senate campaigns and served as president of Sivananthan Laboratories. For more on his background in engineering and research, and on his plans for his first term in office, read Science magazine and NBC‘s profiles of the congressman.
In his “Call Me Raja” TV ad introducing himself as a candidate he said “I have a long name and a short time to introduce myself.” Watch his first floor speech, one minute of Krishnamoorthi calling for a focus on working and middle-class families.
Elected to represent the heart of Silicon Valley as California’s 17th district congressman, Ro Khanna, 40, is a lawyer and teacher who worked for the White House and Department of Commerce during Obama’s first term, and he has keen interests in tech and economic policies. He defeated 8-term incumbent Mike Honda, from his own party, to win office.
Khanna’s grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, was part of Gandhi’s independence movement in India. Read his interview with Quartz to find out how he wants tech giants like Apple to bring jobs to the Midwest, and catch his ceremonial swearing-in during the video clip below.
Ami Bera, 51, is a physician who has represented eastern Sacramento County, Calif., since 2013. He co-chairs the Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, and he won re-election in his competitive district against the tragic backdrop of his 83-year-old father going to jail for soliciting illegal campaign contributions.
On Facebook, Bera shared a photo with the House’s three desi members of congress, and included the Senate’s Kamala Harris in his note about the milestone moment of being “one of five Indian Americans who were sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.”
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