DNC Day 2: Hrishi Karthikeyan, Founder of SAFO

On the afternoon of DNC Day 2, Abhi and I went to another of the numerous AAPI events this week, the AAPI grassroots strategy session. Before that, we had the chance to interview Hrishi Karthikeyan, the founder of South Asians for Obama. Karthikeyan founded the organization in February 2007 to “mobilize and organize” the South Asian community in support of Obama’s candidacy – we asked him a few questions, and had an informative and interesting interview.


When we asked about his motivations to start the organization, he mentioned that he (and his co-founders) wished to engage South Asians in a new way – they had been known to be more than capable of writing checks and discussing Indo-Nuclear deals, but he wanted an organization that would be able to represent the South Asian community in its true multidimensional form. SAFO aims to organize and mobilize South Asians to give community members from all walks of life, whether they be the “rich uncles,” the cab drivers, or the college students, and give them the opportunity to help the campaign in whatever manner they are best suited. By doing this, the organization also hopes to start changing the perception that South Asians only care about a few issues (i.e. Doctors’ issues, Immigration, Healthcare), and show that it truly is a diverse community and coalition that is affected by a great deal of policy from economics to the environment and college loans.

In terms of coordination with the Obama campaign, Hrishi mentioned that the Obama has dictated the needs and SAFO has worked hard to meet them, matching talented members of the community with the campaign’s needs in various areas. He stated that the goal was not to see how much money the group could raise (though that is important), but rather, “how many people can we get involved?”

We asked what the future goals of this organization would be – what would become of SAFO if Obama won in November? He mentioned that the eventual goals of the leadership included making sure that qualified South Asians were put in appointee positions, not as quota system, but rather as a way of making sure that the community was represented as well as it could be and deserved to be on a national level. When he was asked if he would take a cabinet job personally, he stated that he wasn’t holding his breath (though he would do anything Obama needed), and (and I would agree with this) he has a pretty sweet day job.

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