‘I, Nikki Randhawa Haley’: An Inaugural Moment

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Governor Nikki Haley’s inauguration last Wednesday felt like a glimmer of light in a political landscape darkened by the recent tragic mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Republicans, Tea Party supporters, Mama Grizzlies, crack-the-fiscal-whip types, Haley’s family, friends and community–all these people and others had reasons to feel happy on the occasion of her inauguration. But what made my day was seeing the young girls who braved the freezing weather in Columbia to see the first-ever inauguration of a woman and minority governor in the history of South Carolina, a history that spans at least four centuries.

Two girls in matching pink striped hats showed up for the inauguration, and lined up afterwards with other young and bundled-up people to meet the charismatic new governor in person. Parents held their blanketed daughters up in the bitter cold to see and hear this moment. Maybe they wanted their children to see what was possible, to feel that they could dream big and really achieve their dreams too. Those kind of dreams were cut short for the youngest victim of the Tucson shooting, nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, a student council member with a budding interest in politics who was attending a local “Congress on Your Corner” event organized by Arizona Congresswoman Giffords the day she, Giffords and several others in attendance were suddenly shot.

You may have read about Green or heard the President speak about her at the Tucson memorial service, which also took place last Wednesday. With her loss still fresh on my mind, the otherwise ordinary actions of parents taking children to see a historic swearing in felt like moving acts of courage and hope. Haley’s own parents were nearby as she took her oath of office, and in her inaugural speech the nation’s youngest governor (age 38) described how her mom had inspired her own dreams when she was growing up.


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The future governor of the state and her grade-school classmates in Bamberg, South Carolina.

You see, my mother was offered one of the first female judgeships in her native country, but was unable to serve on the bench because of the challenges of being a woman in India. Now she sits here today watching her daughter become Governor of South Carolina, the state she proudly calls her home. When you grow up with a mom like that, the word “can’t” is not in your vocabulary.


I will always be the proud daughter of immigrants. I will always cherish our family’s experience. And I will always strive in my actions and in my words to make South Carolina a place where all of our children, regardless of race or gender, know that unlimited opportunities for happiness and success await them.

Full text of Haley’s speech. Video. Photos of the inauguration, open house and gala.

77 thoughts on “‘I, Nikki Randhawa Haley’: An Inaugural Moment

  1. Every word of what you wrote was what came to my mind when I was reading this story. Totally deceptive and shameful, also the speech writers should stop using this pattern of a personal hardship story and then a statement like ‘… thats why I want to make xyz place better for our children!’. Had enough of it and looking forward to a politician who would talk about real issues rather than fluff.

  2. nerd were relegated to 2nd fiddle in the business world too, where the ceo was usually a smart athletic guy like hank Paulson or a back-slapping boozer like david komansky. the it revolution, followed by revolutions in finiance and now cleantech has changed all that. revenge of the nerds is a big sociological phenomena.

    i don’t know if this will translate into the first nerd potus anytime soon but it can’t hurt if people look at nerds like Bill Gates and see an effective ruthless leader. i think our democracy, especially one devoid of a true electoral system, is more populist than a parliamentary system, where the elites choose the candidates.

    ironically though, the prototypical american nerd-candiate, adlai steveson, lost every goddamn region except the ones dominated by white supremacists, presumably the dumbest people in town. So I guess thats a good sign for the nerd. maybe nerds do well with the outliers: extremely stupid and extremely smart, but have trouble with the middle. just throwing it out there.

  3. i don’t know if this will translate into the first nerd potus

    herbert hoover? the nerd-engineer-in-chief? woodrow wilson? the college president? john adams and thomas jefferson were both first class nerds in their day. jefferson arguably the most scientifically oriented president before t.r. and richard milhouse nixon? then there were nerds with brawn, like t.r. & eisenhower.

    ironically though, the prototypical american nerd-candiate, adlai steveson

    this was fake. stevenson was a dull blue blood. the book he read the most was the social register. einsenhower played himself off as a middle american guy, but he was probably brighter (apparently he had a good knowledge of classical roman history which he let slip once around his advisors).

  4. this was fake. stevenson was a dull blue blood. the book he read the most was the social register. einsenhower played himself off as a middle american guy, but he was probably brighter (apparently he had a good knowledge of classical roman history which he let slip once around his advisors)

    .

    Very interesting. But it doesn’t matter what he really was, only what he appeared to be. If people thought him a nerd, and he was known as egghead, then he’s representative of how nerds might do in politics.

    We should not allow the nerds to come in now and say, “Hey, Nerdism never failed, because real Nerdism has never been tried.”

  5. herbert hoover? the nerd-engineer-in-chief? woodrow wilson? the college president? john adams and thomas jefferson were both first class nerds in their day. jefferson arguably the most scientifically oriented president before t.r. and richard milhouse nixon? then there were nerds with brawn, like t.r. & eisenhower.

    i never thought of them as nerdy. isn’t there more to nerdiness than being an intellectual? were they considered nerdy in their day? maybe nixon, come to think of it. the only guy who i recall it being an issue was Stevenson, even though he might be a fake-nerd.

    i mean, obama may be a nerd at heart, but he plays up his non-nerdiness: athleticism, looks, etc. He probably got elected despite being a nerd, and even his own base is annoyed with the real obama: careful, deliberative, open-minded. They wanted the glitz and glamor guy who was going to bring in the new new-deal.

    • TR, for his part, was a reformed nerd. As a child he was a geeky asthmatic who read a lot. Then his father sat him down one day and told him that he may be smart and talented, but he’s physically scrawny and unless he beefs himself up people are going to walk all over him.

      So this lead him along a period of Teddy putting himself through grueling physical trials until he became the moose punching badass we know and love.

  6. never thought of them as nerdy. isn’t there more to nerdiness than being an intellectual? were they considered nerdy in their day? maybe nixon, come to think of it. the only guy who i recall it being an issue was Stevenson, even though he might be a fake-nerd.

    Yeah there’s definitely more to nerdiness than being an intellectual. I mean I remember when Obama was running for office, the media constantly emphasized his Harvard degree, although having a degree from Harvard/Princeton/Yale or doing Law Review is hardly an unusual qualification of our political leaders. So much of politics is how the media portrays you – Bush grew up in a wealthy East Coast family, the son of a President, went to fancy prep schools all his life, got into Yale based on family name, studied Law, etc…but because of his accent and mannerisms, was portrayed as the type of guy the average Joe could sit down and have a beer with. The American public isn’t outright anti-intellectual imo, but people are definitely wary of anyone who comes across as a “thinker” rather than a “man of action”. If Obama had a bit of a folksy twang, or if he was ever spotted walking around a ranch in jeans and a cowboy hat, he wouldn’t get accused of being pretentious. What’s funny is that the qualities that endeared him to a lot of people (being multi-lingual, having knowledge and respect for other cultures, being educated) are the same qualities that made a lot of shmucks roll their eyes and call him uppity.

  7. “even his own base is annoyed with the real obama: “

    True…i think many in the base thought he would be the one to sign executive order 11110 :)

  8. i think by nerd you mean someone who is smart and on the weird end of the asperger’s spectrum. if that counts, i think perhaps jefferson and nixon would fit the bill. both tended to be monomaniacal, and i don’t think they ever “got” people in a deep intuitive way. don’t know about hoover.

    as for perception, yes, right on that. most people are moronz.

  9. If people have problems with her religion, what does it say about our openess to other faiths? In USA today regardless of ethinicity/background you cannot get elected if you are not a confessed christian. Personally I look forward to the day when USA has an atheist as a President rather than a hindu or a sikh.

    However obviously you can get elected regardless of your ethnic background, even in the most conservative contituencies. Some of you may chose to belittle it because she does not fit your political agenda. But keep in mind this is true for very few countries around the world, so what standards are we comparing with. India? Minorities get elected, but the have to show the same sensitivity to the majority as in the US (Sonia Gandhi). Europe? Give me a break, will not ever happend.

    I assume in the future that people of other faiths could get elected, given that US not to long ago “will never have a black President”, but before that happens, we will see an atheist President.

  10. I mean I remember when Obama was running for office, the media constantly emphasized his Harvard degree, although having a degree from Harvard/Princeton/Yale or doing Law Review is hardly an unusual qualification of our political leaders

    Ah but remember. Obama’s Black, so he has to dodge complaints of being too nerdy on one hand AND dismiss the concerns of rubes who worry that “those people” aren’t as smart.

  11. In USA today regardless of ethinicity/background you cannot get elected if you are not a confessed christian.

    if you mean president, probably, though i think a jew who wasn’t too secular would manage. but jews, and even muslims and buddhists, get elected in other positions all the time. just look at the composition of congress. also, there have been plenty of jewish governors (e.g., ed rendell of pennsylvania was one).

  12. profoundly perverted definitions of words like “secularism”

    the indian usage of the word “secularism” is confusing. i know how it makes sense in india, but it has no real applicability in the USA in the sense they’re using in india.

  13. Words weren’t made to be used as concrete concepts bereft of context…please don’t try to pull the Nirad Chaudari act of relatively-holier-than-thou…it is bashfully indulgent.