Seema Nanda, the first Asian as well as the first Indian American to become the Democratic National Committee (DNC)’s Chief Executive Officer, feels that her party will “take back our country for working families.”
Nanda, a former senior Obama administration official, who left her post as executive vice president and chief operating officer at ‘The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights,’ and took over as DNC CEO last year in July, said her party offered the positive solutions for the country.
“Solutions forged by the strength of our diversity, the rigor of our ideas, and the decency of our values.” She added, sitting on a small round table with this correspondent for an interview.
Her office looked more of a working office – with a high desk.
“I like to stand and work,” she smiled.
Punjabi by heritage, Nanda, 47, is soft-spoken and unassuming.
She said that she took the current job to set “our country back on track is to elect Democrats in every corner of our country.”
The families of Nanda’s dentist parents were among those that left Pakistan during the Partition and settled in Uttar Pradesh. The couple met at the dental school in UP and immigrated to the US in the early 1970s.
Nanda was born in Chicago, raised in Connecticut and attended Brown University and Boston College Law School. She is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association and practiced labor and employment law and has also served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations.
She believed that the Democratic Party was built on forging positive solutions that included everyone and empowered people from diverse backgrounds to speak up and make their voices heard. She believes that supporting the Democratic Party is synonymous with building a future for “our children that we can be proud of.”
Nanda worked as DNC chairman Tom Perez’s chief of staff at the US Department of Labor when the latter was the secretary of that agency in the Obama administration’s second term. She replaced interim CEO Mary Beth Cahill.
As DNC CEO, Nanda, who manages the day-to-day operations of the organization. said she tried to create an environment that brings out the best in the people and provides access to talents that can help organizations thrive.
She said she believed in comprehensive immigration reform.
She said that Democrats were for open borders and sensible, humane immigration policies.
“But our most immediate step is getting those [separated asylum-seeking] families back together and stopping these inhumane, nonsensical policies,” Nanda said.
She also argued that all immigrants, including Indian Americans, should get involved in the political process. She said her team was focused on serving a diverse community.
Nanda is proud to be the first Indian-American head of the Democratic National Committee, that has governed the US Democratic Party since 1848.
A lawyer and member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Nanda said a major challenge in her journey has been male dominance in American politics, with the women facing discrimination and systemic barriers.
She said it was heartening to see so many women in Congress from her party, including the first native American, the first Muslim and the first Indian American.
Women made up half the population but got less pay, especially those in lower income group, she said, also pointing to a color barrier.
“African American women are paid much less than the white women,” she said.
For this and other reasons, Nanda said she really believes in the ‘Me too’ movement.
“It is a great movement for women – for women in low-income groups to feel safe in a work environment, especially those women who work in the hotel and restaurant industry,” she said.
She said she tried to inculcate the values her parents gave her in her own children although, she conceded, each generation is different.
Nanda described her mother as her role model, given how she managed to balanced a lot of diverse demands.
Nanda lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband and 14- and 12-year-old sons.
For them, she said, she wants to help create “an America that is bright, fair, and that works for everyone, where the opportunity for all means something.”