Longtime community and political activist Dr. Rachakonda D. Prabhu, of Las Vegas, Nevada — one of the most influential Indian Americans in the state, and for decades the family physician, friend and confidante of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) — last month hosted a major fundraiser for presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Devi Harris, that was attended by the who’s who of the state, besides scores of Indian American physicians and entrepreneurs.
From the U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, to the confirmation by the Senate of President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in 2014, it was Prabhu who twisted Reid’s arm to push through Murthy’s confirmation — after it had remained in limbo for over a year because of resistance from the National Rifle Association that didn’t take kindly to Murthy’s assertion that gun violence was a threat to public health.
In a rousing introduction of Harris at the reception held at the Queensridge Towers in Las Vegas on June 14, Prabhu, a pulmonologist, who owns and operates Red Rock Medical Center in Las Vegas and is the president of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, said, “I know Sen. Kamala Harris prefers issues over identity and describes herself simply as, a ‘proud American.’ I share her view but ask for her indulgence for just a moment.”
“That’s because I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the tremendous pride and respect I and nearly three million other Indian Americans have in Sen. Harris as not only the first Indian American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate but also the first to run for president.”
Prabhu also said, “I would also be criminally negligent if I didn’t mention that Kamala means lotus flower in Sanskrit and that the lotus is the symbol of peace and eternity in Hinduism.”
“So, in a turn of a phrase befitting a Haiku poem, let me simply say that Kamala Harris is the lotus of America,” he said.
“Among her signature issues in this presidential campaign, Senator Harris is advocating for quality, affordable health care for all… for economic justice where every American gets a fair shot… for raising teacher pay… for criminal justice reform… and for action on gun violence, among many other pressing issues,” Prabhu said.
“As a physician, one issue that is near and dear to my heart and that of many colleagues is the legalization of medical marijuana. I have seen firsthand the tremendous benefits of marijuana in patientcare yet it remains in the same class as heroin in Nevada.”
Prabhu said that “Senator Harris was among the first to support legalizing medical marijuana by calling for an end to the federal ban.”
“By any measure, Senator Harris has outlined a very ambitious agenda. But, so did Abraham Lincoln, for one. And if Lincoln proved anything it was that nothing is more unstoppable than fierce ambition rooted in a desire to accomplish something worthy enough in life so that he could make the world a little better place for his having lived in it.”
Prabhu declared that “Clio, the Greek goddess of history reflected well on Lincoln… and looking back I know we will all reflect equally well on Senator Harris.”
Harris, clearly touched by Prabhu’s remarks, said that this was “one of the best introductions I’ve ever had,” and turning to Prabhu joked, “I’d like to take you along with me on my campaign from time to time,” as the warm-up act.
She then reminisced about the summers she would spend at her grandparents home in Chennai and the long walks she would take with her grandfather –who was “one of the original freedom fighters”—and his friends and would listen to how they would talk about improving the lives and conditions of the Indian people who were under the yoke of British colonialism.
Harris said in those early years, he was her “inspiration,” and looking back it was clear that that it was her grandfather who made her political inclined.
Then she spoke of her parents –an Indian mother and Jamaican father—and their activism in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, while they were students at the University of Berkeley and in one of her most-oft used quotes, said, “this moment of time is a moment in time to that moment of time when my parents were active in the civil rights movement.”
That this was a moment in time that requires the community to be part of the fight for American ideals as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Bills of Rights “that we are all equals and should be treated that way,” and that that “even in the face of powerful voices that are sowing hate and division among us, I know it to be true and believe we have so much more in common than what divides us. I know it to be true because of my personal and professional experiences.”
Harris then waxed nostalgic about her mother, “all five feet, one inch of her,” and how whenever she complained toher about anything,her mother would simply ask “What are you going to do about it?”
And, to sustained applause, she said in today’s context, in the wake of the advent of President Trump and his anti-immigrant fervor and xenophobia and the racism and bigotry that his remarks had fomented, she harked back to what her mother would say, and declared, that’s why she decided to run for president.
Harris then when on to echo familiar themes that she has put forward since she declared her candidacy for president and articulated some of her recent policy propositions from gun control to marijuana legalization and Medicare for all to the Green New Deal, and also one of her most popular policy formulations of a $13,500 salary increase for teachers and how she would pay for this plan and that of Medicare for all.
She also dwelled on her plan regarding abortion where she would require states that want to restrict abortion to clear new health reproductive laws with the Department of Justice.
Harris ended as she often does by arguing that “we are now at a moment of inflection” and that “Years from now, people are going to look at each one of us—maybe our children, our grandchildren, other people—and ask us, where were you during that inflection moment?”
And, she asserted that “our answer should not be how we felt, our answer should be about what we did.”
Among the attendees were, co-hosts, Dr. Nick Spirtos and Dr. Asif Mahmood, casino mogul Mike Sloan, former chairman of the Nevada Resort Association, Robert Lange, erstwhile chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party, and Indian American and South Asian American physicians, Drs.VishSharma, Vishal Gandothra, Ram Singh,PreetiNarrula,Vishweshwar Ranga, Sanjay Kandoth, Ahsan Chowdhry Ahsan, Salina Praveen, Lee Rachakonda, Tara Rachakonda, and Lata Rachakonda.
Also present were Drs. Joaquim Tavares and Wail Eid, restaurant owner Raja Majid, Frank Hawkins, former NFL player, who was a member of the Oakland Raider, including when they won the SuperBowl in Jan. 1984, attorney Paul Padda, and renowned musician, DJ, record producer and music executive Steve Aoki.