Interview With Washington State Senator Mona Das

Season 1
Season 1
Interview With Washington State Senator Mona Das


soniya gokhale [00:00:05] Welcome back to another episode of Desi. Woman podcast. I am your host, Soniya Gokhale and the voices I am seeking may have never been heard before, but their stories deserve to be told. What is a Desi. woman? She’s a dynamic, fearless and strong woman. She’s your mother, your grandmother, your daughter, your sister. She is every one of us who’s on an endless pursuit of self empowerment and fulfillment. I am Soniya Gokhale and I am a Desi. woman.


soniya gokhale [00:00:40] Hello and welcome to another edition of a Desi woman podcast. I am your host Soniya Gokhale. And today I’m excited to be joined by Washington State Senator Mona Mona graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and earned her MBA in sustainable business from Pinchuk University. She then attended the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.


soniya gokhale [00:01:06] She operated her own successful mortgage business for 15 years in twenty eighteen. She was elected to the forty seven legislative district of Washington State. And in a tribute to her Hindu faith, she took her legislative oath by swearing on a copy of The Bhagavad Geetha. One of the most important and sacred religious texts in Hinduism. Mona, welcome to the show. Thank you so much.


Mona Das [00:01:30] What a pleasure to be here.


soniya gokhale [00:01:32] Wonderful  so I have some questions for, you know, one of the aspects of your entry into politics and election to the Washington Senate in twenty eighteen. That is so interesting is the fact that you are an immigrant to the country and came to the US when you were an eight month old infant. In fact, pulling directly from your bio on online, you indicate that your parents immigrated to the rough spot with only six dollars in their pocket, but full of hopes and dreams. Also, due to your father’s job, you lived in eight different states and three countries before settling in Kent, Washington and the Forty Seventh Legislative District. So I guess my question is, how did those formative years as the daughter of immigrants and their ability to live and learn and so many different regions in the U.S. and the world? How did that help you develop as a person and and now a senator?


Mona Das [00:02:27] Well, I always say, you know, we moved around a lot of the kids. So I always say my philosophy was make friends before lunch or eat along. And I do think that all of the travel and all of many states that we lived in really did develop my outgoing personality.


Mona Das [00:02:46] I am actually on the mires big scale, a hundred percent extroverted. And I think that has served me really well in politics. And I know for me it makes me. One of the things I learned from my mother is to be a warm and welcoming spirit. She both of my uncles came from India. And not only that, she helped them learn English. She helped them understand American culture and taught them how to drive cars. My mom was always the hostess for all the parties. And so I just think I learned from my mother how to be a warm and welcoming spirit. And for my father, you know, I got extreme drive. My father is, you know, a genius and has five college degrees. And so I think from both my parents, I got different things. And I really think that the drive, you know, that immigrants have you know, the culture is, you know, make it right.


Mona Das [00:03:41] You know, we come to a new land and our only choice is to make it. And so I really do credit both my parents with the drive. I have to make my community better.


soniya gokhale [00:03:54] That’s wonderful. And what a beautiful Indian outfit you were wearing when you took your oath in office? That was wonderful.


Mona Das [00:04:02] It was really important to me to wear traditional Indian clothing in space that is not built for people of color. All this space was frankly not built for women either. Spaces like the legislature in any state were really built for white men to can maintain power. And so for me, wearing that purple savoir and I wore the purple. So why? Because I come from a at the time. So I’m one of a swing district and no longer is a swing district. And so I wanted to wear purple to indicate both the Republican and the Democratic constituents that I would be representing.


soniya gokhale [00:04:43] That’s wonderful. No. And you’re absolutely right. I think I can maybe count one or two fingers the time I’ve seen somebody in our traditional Indian garb in in a political structure of any type.


soniya gokhale [00:04:55] So and especially an elected official. So very much appreciate that.


Mona Das [00:04:59] One of the other stories I wanted to share, and I think your listeners. Will really resonate with this one is that, you know, growing up, I had two choices.


Mona Das [00:05:09] The first was to be a doctor. The second was to be an engineer. And I am very classically Indian. Half my family are doctors. The other half are years of age 13. You know, my grandfather, who was a physician, kept saying, OK, you’re going to be a doctor, gonna be doctor. And finally at 13, I said, I’m not going to be a doctor. And so everybody just shrugged their shoulders and just assumed I would be an engineer.


Mona Das [00:05:34] And I did actually get talked Hindu by my father to start off as a chemical engineering major in college and at University Cincinnati. And that did not work out for me. That first year was difficult managing, you know, being Orlo, having freedom. And and so I ended up majoring in something that I cared about. You know, the political sort of like how I got into politics is such a great story. I love telling it. I don’t know about you, but I do my best thinking in the shower. And it was visiting my my baby brother one day. And he was in Cleveland at the time. And I had just met his girlfriend, who is now his wife and the mother of my two greatest joys in my life.


Mona Das [00:06:15] My nephews, Meum and Ryan and I got out of the shower and I said, I’m going to be a senator. And we all just looked at each other like and I literally just met Misty the night before. And my brother and I looked at each other and we just started laughing because, like, where the heck did that come from? Right. I remember we laughed and that was it. Right. Neither one of them actually even remember me saying that. But it was so clear in my mind that I got that vision right.


Mona Das [00:06:45] And so what happened was I you know, I think a lot of us get this. We have this vision. We realize it’s not really going to serve us right now. So we don’t go for it. We put it on a shelf and then sometimes we bring it down. We dusted off and we look at it. We say, no, this doesn’t serve me right now or this isn’t a goal I’m going to go for right now. And then sometimes we put that idea back on the shelf. And this is that idea that I took on and off the shelf for many years. And then one day and I mean, that was just ridiculous, right? An Indian woman running to be a senator made no sense. So one day I was walking my dog, Cleveland, who, believe it or not, has more energy than I do. And we’re walking. And if I stop, he doesn’t like that. So he starts to bark. And I was walking. I literally saw a sign. No kidding. A sign that said Primula. Jan Paul for state Senate.


Mona Das [00:07:40] And I stopped and I looked at that sign and I’m going to tell you that I cried for five whole minutes, my dog is pulling, he’s barking, he wants to go. And I’m standing in front of that sign because you know as well as I know the name for M.J. Ball. Not only is that an Indian person, but that is it. And I remember thinking to myself in that five minutes of just losing it, that if she could do it, I could do it. And I’ll tell you, fast forward a few years. This makes me cry every time I tell the story. I actually not only did I run for the Senate state Senate, and I originally thought that meant federal. So I did run for Congress initially, which I can talk about another time, but it was winning, pivoting and running in the same cycle and winning four states Senate that same year, 2018.


Mona Das [00:08:34] And fast forward to January 2019. I get to choose an office and I will tell you what I told Formulas this last week.


Mona Das [00:08:44] She did a birthday party Zoome fundraiser for me. And I told her I said, familiar, not going to believe this, congresswoman. I drove her office in the state House, in the state Senate building. I actually have the office that she had.


Mona Das [00:08:59] Oh, my goodness. Wow, that’s amazing.


Mona Das [00:09:02] And I will follow her to Congress. She knows that.


soniya gokhale [00:09:07] Now, that’s that’s so inspiring. It really is. I mean, and I absolutely believe in that. And you sort of admitted that you put it on the shelf for some time and you’re so right. How many of us do that? And, you know, you I guess, would you call it courage that I guess seeing that sign is what sort of made you gave you regret? It’s tiring. Yeah.


Mona Das [00:09:28] Seeing that’s her and gave me the juice that I needed. And then when I met somebody who told me about Women’s Campaign School at Yale, I was like, OK, I’m in. And it was very competitive program. They only accept 300 people a year from around the world. And so I was one of those things where I thought, OK, universe, if I meant to do this, I’ll get in. And I didn’t know if I would get in. And we’re super competitive. I got in and then it was a week long program from like basically eight o’clock in the morning till midnight every day for five days. And I thought to myself, well, any day that I learn what it’s like to really run for office. If if I can’t do it or I don’t think it’s possible, then, you know, I’ll have had this experience of learning at Yale.


Mona Das [00:10:14] But if at any point I’m like, no, I can’t do that. But every day I was like, yep, I can do that. Yep, I can do that. Yep, I can do that.


Mona Das [00:10:20] And by the end of it I was like, oh yeah, I’m running. And then what happened was that was in 2015. And then of course November 9th, 2016, when everybody else woke up crying and upset and not able to function. I literally woke up and this is kind of a weird thing to say, but I usually roll out of bed sort of like on my side. I kid you not. I actually would like something. I mean, I just felt it propelled me upwards.


Mona Das [00:10:53] I sat straight up in my bed and I like very like I was like falling out of bed, like I flung right out of bed, stood sat straight up on my bed. And I said, I’m going to run ahead like everybody else was crying and I know I’m running.


Mona Das [00:11:10] And that was 2016 and I got elected in 2018.


soniya gokhale [00:11:14] Unbelievable. That’s such a great story. I agree with you.


Mona Das [00:11:20] One last thing I want to share before you get to your next question. And this is really important for anyone listening who wants to run for office.


Mona Das [00:11:27] They say that it takes eight times for a woman to be asked to run for office before she’ll say yes. They say that number is ten. If you’re a woman of color, I’m going to just ask you to play a guessing game with me. How many times do you think I was asked to run for office?


soniya gokhale [00:11:46] Wow. You know, I would say it would take a lot. So I would say 15.


Mona Das [00:11:54] The answer is zero. Oh, my goodness. Nobody, you know, ever, ever loved the helpless. No, buddy. That’s a great point.


Mona Das [00:12:04] Or my abilities or my skills and said, oh, my gosh, you should run.


Mona Das [00:12:08] So it was one hundred percent driven by me and nobody thought I could win. I mean, nobody. When I tell you there were twelve people in the state of Washington that thought I could win the seat. I ran against the most well-liked Republican in state of Washington. He was the golden boy. He was supposed to be, you know, attorney general and run for governor someday. Nobody thought I could win.


soniya gokhale [00:12:34] Incredible. Really?


soniya gokhale [00:12:36] Well, you know, one of the motivations in launching a Desi million podcast was to bring forth stories of dynamic, fearless woman such as yourself. And unlike many elected officials in the U.S., at the local, state and federal level who may have dynastic familial legacies in the world of politics, Indian American women have none of that to count upon. And you kind of referenced that, you know, you saw a sign with an Indian woman’s name on it, but nobody thought you could win. Nobody asked you to run.


soniya gokhale [00:13:08] And what’s interesting is the twenty eighteen class of congressional Democrats, one of the largest in history, made about 58, is notable for its near total absence of legacies from previous elected officials. And so, you know, we kind of talked about this a bit before we started recording about it being a bit of an old boys network and certainly favor and Caucasian males.


soniya gokhale [00:13:32] But do you think this trend of outsiders or people that don’t have that family legacy is a good thing for our governmental system? Absolutely.


Mona Das [00:13:43] I mean, we can not solve today’s problems with the same people that were involved in creating them. I think that’s an Einstein quote. And if that’s so true, the problems that we face now have been created and it could have been prevented had we had different legislators. And, you know, right now in the Senate chamber that I work in, there’s 28 Democrats, others. Forty nine total. And there are only four women of color. And two of us just got elected in two thousand eighteen. So, you know, the diversity in that chamber is so little that we when Emily Randall and I, Senator Emily ran on, I got elected. It was like a sea change in there. And so, you know, I I’d shared with you before our call that one of the things that drives me is I promised myself the barriers that are up for any woman, for any person of color, for anyone who was not wealthy to run for office. There are so many barriers. And I know this because I ran in 2000, 17 and 18, first for U.S. Congress and then second for Washington state Senate. So on the federal level and on the state level, I can tell you about every single barrier that I hit. And the only reason I got elected is because, A, I believed in myself.


Mona Das [00:15:11] B, I knew I could do it. See, I have the skills.


Mona Das [00:15:16] I’ve been in business development and sales my entire career. And I’ve also been an entrepreneur and I’ve launched many businesses. And so one things that can’t let people don’t realize that campaigns are is they’re small businesses. It’s a small startup.


Mona Das [00:15:32] And so because I know how to run a startup, I was able to maneuver that very well because I have a visual mind mapper. I was able to visually map all the players and their importance and be able to maneuver.


Mona Das [00:15:49] Whose advice I would take, whose advice I wouldn’t listen to, which political politicos would I trust? Which ones would I not? And as a sales person or career business development salesperson. And as someone who’s lived in eight states and three countries, I’m adaptable. And I can have a conversation. As I mentioned, I’m 100 percent outgoing with anybody. And so that allows me the ability to maneuver and feel flexible. You know, I can have a great conversation with you and then I can have a great conversation with someone that’s the exact opposite of you, because I’m able to look at it and make friends before lunch or eat alone. And so that’s one of the skills that I think, you know, nobody knew that about me because I was a political outsider. And so no one realized, you know, I think the one word that is used to describe me the most is tenacious.


Mona Das [00:16:45] And I would say that tenacity is the skill that allows Indian immigrant women to survive in this country. It is the skill that allows someone who looks like me to do what I did. And what I promised myself is that I would never, ever, on my watch let the next woman or the next woman of color have to go through all the hoops and all the barriers. And so I have now launched three organizations in three months since the murder of Jorge Floyd.


Mona Das [00:17:17] That was my inspiration right now where I’m doing all the fundraising for a PAC. It’s called Opportunity PAC. You can check it out. Opportunity Dasch PAC dot com.


Mona Das [00:17:29] And we are currently supporting eight black women running through the legislature in the state of Washington. And let me tell you why that’s significant. The state of Washington is not the most diverse place. In fact, it’s probably the least diverse place I’ve ever lived. And the fact that we have eight women running in the state of Washington is incredible. In fact, there’s actually 10 women, black women running. Our PAC is supporting eight for the general election. And it’s been incredible. People are so excited. They want to do something with their anger and their advocacy and their new awakened learning of what privilege looks like and what white privilege looks like. What’s how society has been deemed around, you know, men, particularly Caucasian men and Caucasian women. And so this PAC has been amazing. We’ve been able to do some great things. All of our candidates that we supported made it through the general election, made it to the general election.


Mona Das [00:18:27] We also supported do two black judges who are incredible. These women are just amazing. And back to your earlier point. These women are not trained career politicians. Some of them started off on school board, but very few the rest of them just want to serve their communities. And so now formula inspired me.


Mona Das [00:18:46] And when I ran for office, there were 13 Indian women running at the same time. Believe it or not. And now there are, you know, these 10 black women that are running and who knows who we are going to inspire to run next.


soniya gokhale [00:19:01] That is just incredible.


Mona Das [00:19:03] I’m kind of the second organization I launched is called Opportunity Leadership Network, and it is to train women of color once they get into leadership. There’s no support for us. Right. We’re just kind of left there hanging on our own. So it’s just really a network to build community among women of color and leadership.


Mona Das [00:19:24] And then finally, we’re launching as a C4 organization, five onesie for her. That’s an advocacy arm. We’re going to hire black lobbyists to come to Olympia. We’re our capital is to lobby on behalf of the black and brown communities. Because once I know we’re doing a pretty good job diversifying our legislature and our our Congress, where we’re lacking is the lobbyists.


Mona Das [00:19:49] The lobbyists are all still older white men who are very wealthy and they get paid a lot of money. One lobbyist I know gets paid one hundred thousand dollars a month. A month. That’s a month.


Mona Das [00:20:00] And again, we cannot solve all of our world’s problems with the same same people that created them. And one of the things I love to say is a professor from my grad school told us. All of the solutions to all of the world’s problems have already been created. We just don’t have the political will to implement them. So the more women of color that don’t work groom to be, you know, while petition’s. The more diversity we have in our legislature. And I’m talking about diversity, like rural folks from rural communities, folks from urban communities, people that have different backgrounds. You know, I’m one of the first immigrants in the state legislature. You know, we need diversity. I mean, we still absolutely need the folks that are used to being there, too. We need all of people to be there to solve these problems. But collectively, we can do it together. And that’s why I’m so, you know, so driven. You know, I’ve raised three quarters of a million dollars in three months for these three organizations so that we can support these women, lobby on behalf of the communities of color, as well as help women of color get elected. So that’s really the drive that I have to make sure journeys of people like mine don’t have to be so hard, because you know what? It doesn’t have to be that hard. Once they crack the code, I want to not just open the door and give someone the key. I want to bust down the roof and make sure everybody has access. The halls of power, we need people to open the doors and, you know, bust busted out. And that’s really what I’m trying to do in Washington. And once we do that in Washington this cycle, we can replicate it in other states.


soniya gokhale [00:21:52] Absolutely. No. That model is just incredible. And I really hope that our listening audience will will grasp that and we’ll feel so much more about this.


soniya gokhale [00:22:03] It sounds like a gold standard for what could occur in other states, as you indicated. And I was going to ask you note that you do have a lot of experience in the private sector and as you stated, operative your own very successful mortgage business for 15 years. Now, many politicians in this country are criticized because they perhaps have no true private sector experience and are instead, as we stated, some career politicians or familial connections. And sometimes you don’t offer necessarily tangible solutions like what you mapped out just now. I won’t even ask how long it took you to come up with that. But it’s successful. So, as you stated, it’s almost like a startup. And there’s two questions I want to ask you, because in a different podcast, Usha, at a bipartisan interview with some Indian women who are current political candidates, elected officials or in the past have ran. And he said the biggest, Tom’s one of the biggest challenges is fundraising. And so is that sort of tied to what you stated, that you kind of have to know how to play the game, but in some respects, that’s kind of what you’re alluding to. So I want to hear about you.


soniya gokhale [00:23:09] And if that’s what you’re doing, it sounds like for these other Leidy women, African-American women that are running is helping them with that hundred degrees.


Mona Das [00:23:17] Yeah, well, so fundraising is one of my unique skills. I’ve got three really super horse, and that’s one of them. In fact, I’d love to fundraise like I really love it. And I’m you know, I’m helping these women by fundraising for them and then providing them the money. You know, it’s just it’s so many things you have to learn as a candidate and you are starting your own business and you have to wear all the different hats. And most women, especially, particularly women of color, is especially particularly black women. I have heard have been taught to not ask people for money. So it’s very uncomfortable. Every I do a lot of training. There’s an organization in Washington called Immerge Washington. And I think there’s like I know there’s a merge, but probably about 10 other states. It’s a great training program. For those of you who don’t want to go to the campaign school at Yale. One, find the local emerge chapter in your state. And if there isn’t one, start one, it’s incredible. The network alone, you know, those were somewhat unicorn’s like my family loves and supports me now. They didn’t understand what I was doing for two years, but now they’re very proud. But you just need this network of other unicorn’s, as I like to call us, because it’s a very unique person that is willing to put their life on hold. Life on public display to run for office. And so I just decided that because I love to fundraise. And it was really after the murder of George Floyd, I was like, how can I be of service? How can I be helpful in the movement? And then I realized that, oh, my gosh, we have all of these fantastic black women running for the legislature. And I knew all of them personally when I knew them and loved them and wanted to do something for them. And, you know, I had this idea on May 30th, June 2nd, we launched the. The Web site, and within the first seven days, we raise sixty five thousand dollars. The link pretty much went viral. And again, it’s opportunity, the dash packed up column always closing as I am. And so, you know, truly.


Mona Das [00:25:33] You know, and now that organization, the PAC, is raised, I think about three hundred fifty thousand.


Mona Das [00:25:38] And the rest of it is I’ve raised into that five or one C three, the nonprofit and some of it into the five twenty four. So you know what’s great about having a nonprofit and a PAC and a C four is different. Donors want different outcomes. And so we’re able to provide donors. And if they want a tax deductible receipt, for example, you know, we can provide that for them as well. If they if they don’t into this five or one, C three. So, yeah, it’s been really fun. And I like to start things. So, you know, my goal is to get these things started and then sort of step away and let other folks lead them because I’ll get real busy real soon. You’re with Session starting in January.


Mona Das [00:26:22] Yeah. And I have to say, like I stated, I mean, this is a pain point, I guess, as you say, for a lot of women, but especially women of color. So I think that’s fascinating. And I could see, first of all, your personality is such that you really get people motivated.


Mona Das [00:26:35] So I could see how doing Arsenal would do that. I will buy what you’re selling. I mean, already I’ve only known you a bit and it’s like, wow, you know, so you have that talent.


Mona Das [00:26:45] And I guess that that may be part of it and sort of imparting some of that knowledge to these other candidates that are running.


Mona Das [00:26:53] So now I want to tell you that a friend of mine calls it motivation from my dad is to make sure that we are going to be Siamese on ABC on my podcast.


Mona Das [00:27:05] I’m telling you, I’m not joking. Awesome.


Mona Das [00:27:09] My hashtag for my campaign was Immigrant Hussle.


soniya gokhale [00:27:16] Oh, my goodness. I can see a lot of products coming out of this. I’m telling ya.


Mona Das [00:27:23] Well, exactly, exactly. And, you know, I was gonna ask you, is that so?


soniya gokhale [00:27:28] How does this help you in your day to day work as a senator? Where perhaps so there is a stereotype that perhaps Republicans may be more mindful of fiscal restraint. And I’m sort of a better eye on the bottom line, so to speak. And yet it sounds like you absolutely have the acumen to not only run a business successfully, but also have an eye on it and not something often Democratic Party is stereotyped as perhaps not having that business background. They just want you to comment on that.


Mona Das [00:28:03] Well, I think that’s exactly right. There are very few people in the legislature that have business experience. And so I do want my MBA in sustainable business from Penneshaw University and everything I run in that program, I use really what I got an MBA in is transformational leadership. And so I do things very differently. I ran a meeting today. We do what’s called a one word check in meaning like just tell me one word of how you’re feeling. We end with a one word check out. And then I sort of outline the process of how we’re going to get things done on legislation. Often takes many years. And that’s because the stakeholders are not brought into the process soon enough. And then they stall the legislation. And so I told them this morning at the meeting that we had, I said, this bill will pass next year and I need to know that you’re on the board. I’m on the team to pass the bill. And everybody said, yes, yes, yes, yes, we want something to pass. And it’s an important bill to extend tax credit for large for building because we have an affordable housing crisis in Seattle and all around our whole state. I’m sure every other state has to, you know. So, you know, I was trying to pass a Styrofoam bill, did the same sort of process. So my business experience, I’m using it, especially what I learned in my MBA, to really make change and make transformative, transformative change. I think it coded has taught us anything. People like you and me, we know the systems were broken because it wasn’t always working for us. Right. But now I think nobody can deny that black and brown people are, in fact, suffering at a higher percentage.


Mona Das [00:29:52] Especially, my gosh, the percentages of people that look like you and I have that have gotten covered.


Mona Das [00:29:59] Right. And so I just think we can no longer pretend that we have that we don’t have inequities. And so that’s really what was the prompting of this organization. You know what? What was it that I could do? What was the special sauce that I could bring? And it was like, oh, my gosh, I can help fundraise for these women. And I will be honest, I thought I would raise fourteen thousand dollars. The Max gift is two thousand each. And I thought I could raise fourteen thousand dollars for these. There were seven women that we supported initially. And within I mean, two days I’d already raised twenty five thousand dollars in matching gifts. And then, like I said, by the end of the week, we had raised sixty five thousand. So, you know, it was the right idea at the right time. And I think it was the right person, you know, sort of executing the vision because I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to be a candidate. I know what it’s like to be an immigrant. I know what it’s like to be a woman of color. I know what it’s like to have no one believe you that you could win. I know what it’s like. No one believes you that you can raise money. And I certainly knew what it was like to run for office. And because I have such great sales skills that I’ve been honing over time. Fundraising is one of my favorite things to do.


Mona Das [00:31:14] So I was able to use that superpower to help other people, you know, lift up, you know, my my kids. I want to lift up all boats. And people began asking, you know, why am I working so hard? And it’s because, A, I believe in these women. I know them all personally. They’re all phenomenal be. Their leadership is sorely needed. And see, if it’s not going to be me, then who is it going to be? Right. Someone who’s experienced the pain and trauma of 22 months running for office in a system that was built for you not to win. And so I just I mean, I know I just made myself a promise, not on my watch. I will do whatever I could to help candidates that I thought were incredibly excellent. I’m like these candidates to win.


soniya gokhale [00:31:59] That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Look, you know, we live in an era of unprecedented divisiveness across this geo political issues and party line.


soniya gokhale [00:32:08] However, you know, I have to say in talking to you, I just you just give me this feeling everything. Gonna be okay. There’s people out there that have your ability to sort of translate your dream into reality. I’m and I’m I’m really totally serious. I’ve only known you during the course of this interview, but you’ve had that effect. And so it’s interesting. I’m really hopeful that we see a lot in the headlines, but I’m hopeful that maybe you are seeing something within your community, your constituents and in your state that gives you hope that you’re happy about the program you just described.


soniya gokhale [00:32:41] It’s a perfect example. But any other things that you see and I think just your outlook is something we could use in every aspect of society right now.


Mona Das [00:32:51] Well, I tell everybody, you know, my family came in with six dollars, so we really had no choice but to be optimists.


Mona Das [00:32:58] So I am not only my outgoing, but I’m extreme optimist. And what I see right now is hope. I see communities banding together. I went to Cuba during grad school and I had to write a paper about my experience and the paper. My title of the paper was When Scarcity Fuels Innovation. And I think that’s what we’re seeing now.


Mona Das [00:33:22] You know, many of us that are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, meaning that we have broadband, we have the technology and we are not having to be on the front lines.


Mona Das [00:33:32] Oh, and thank you to the front line workers, our grocery store workers, our postal workers, our doctors and nurses and everyone else that is keeping our economy running right now. The rest of us, many of us are at home. And just the innovation that I’ve seen just in launching these three organizations and just the innovation that I’ve seen in the last six months.


Mona Das [00:33:53] Turns out we all can do it. We all you know, I think we’ve leapfrogged into a new era, you know, and every every parent I know that has children is not loving teaching their kids. I mean, I was with my nephews and it was was really hard to teach my kindergarten nephew to learn school online. But, you know, we’re doing it and it’s not going to be forever.


Mona Das [00:34:17] And so my hope is that we are continue to band together. We saw it after 9/11, right after 9/11, the whole country band together. So we know we can do it. And I think what I’m really excited about is continuing to move forward.


Mona Das [00:34:35] And, you know, when people say, I want to go back to normal. No, no, no. Normal is over. Our past did not work for everybody where we were did only worked for a select few people.


Mona Das [00:34:50] So I visualize and I’m working towards a vision of a future that is more inclusive, that’s more just that’s more equitable. And that’s that’s.


Mona Das [00:35:02] That works for more people. And that is what I work for towards every day.


Mona Das [00:35:08] And I’ll tell you what, the amount of people that I see, my father included, is, you know, he’s phone banking for bitin. He lives in St. Louis. I just think that people really are home. They got some time to study or read about privilege and reason. Read about economic inequalities and read about, you know, really the history of our black brothers and sisters. And I really am hopeful that people are moving forward. And I really hope people get to the point soon that they’re not saying I just want to go back to normal, that they’re realizing that there is going to be a new normal. And I think that’s going to be beautiful. I think it’s going to be more unified, but it’s not going to happen alone. Like, I can’t do it alone. You can’t do it alone. We all have to do it together. And a date as a Desi community. I am one of the other side projects I have is getting the Desi. community to realize that their money is political power and we haven’t used that political power.


Mona Das [00:36:16] But I have ideas on how to do that, which we can talk about on another level.


Mona Das [00:36:22] Absolutely. No, I would agree with that.


Mona Das [00:36:24] In fact, that’s exactly what these women candidates are indicating, is that that’s a huge hurdle. And surprisingly, they also indicated that there wasn’t much support not only from the Indian community, but also, look, they specifically called out gender.


Mona Das [00:36:39] And and so, you know, that that also is a whole other show.


Mona Das [00:36:44] But I do think that, you know, there is a lot of patriotic in gender bias, obviously, and within our communities. And so I have to say, like listening to you, your voice and how empowered you are is just such a breath of fresh air. It’s wonderful and it’s so motivating, you know?


Mona Das [00:37:02] And I have to say, we need to hear more of that, because as you stated, I mean, there’s gender roles are no longer valid and not only in this country, but in this day and age. The old system, like you said, it’s broken.


soniya gokhale [00:37:12] So. And so I guess my point is that, yes, I must have you back again. I demand it. So I think you’re doing a listening.


soniya gokhale [00:37:24] And absolutely, we need to continue this conversation because you really bring some amazing solutions forth. And then as you stood there helping the African-American candidates, it’s an absolutely wonderful program. But I think especially in our communities, there may be other Indian woman that would run if they could overcome these types of hurdles.


Mona Das [00:37:42] Well, absolutely. And I’d just end with, you know, the Desi. community was not there for me when I ran. I thought they would be. And even their own family all I just give you one hundred and one dollars. And it’s like, you know, I went to a fund raiser at someone’s house. There’s a five billion dollar home.


Mona Das [00:37:59] Every car is the Tesla or a Mercedes or or or whatever.


Mona Das [00:38:03] And it was to win the again, it’s running for school board and one for a city council. And I just had a chat with the optimism on goals. And I said, listen, you all are going to give, you know, these two candidates one hundred and one dollars, and you’re gonna pat yourself on your back and eat your job and each your pakoras and drive home and your hundred thousand dollar automobiles to your five million dollar mansion. I said, if you really care about education, you got your kids in private school. Well, giving this candidate on the school board and giving the other one on city council is your best investment. And I and I talked to them and I just said, you’re one hundred and one dollars is not OK. Their personal gift is two thousand. Every single person in this room can give two thousand dollars. Who’s going to be brave enough to do it?


Mona Das [00:38:51] And all the aunties and uncles, not all of them, because some of them didn’t appreciate the lecture, but a few of them came up to me and said all I’d give five hundred and one dollars to each of them. Thank you. And I like that. So we moved the meat and the needle.


Mona Das [00:39:06] So if there are people listening right now and you’re wondering what you can do, give come the Harris and Joe Biden money. More than one hundred and one dollars. Give them a thousand and one. Give them five thousand and one. Give them what you can. This is what’s going to move the needle.


Mona Das [00:39:25] We cannot have Trump elected again. We just cannot our cities, our communities of color and our folks who are in vulnerable situations, whether they’re disabled or whether they’re on the poverty line or they’re on the verge of being evicted or whatever.


Mona Das [00:39:43] We cannot withstand another four years of Trump. So I am asking you, please donate to your local candidates, school boards, city councils, state legislature. And if you’re so inclined, please give to the presidential candidate of your choice. I mean, I’m not telling you to vote for or who to give money to, whatever. Your ideology is supported with money, because that’s the only thing that matters. And I will just end with the Jewish community has done a great job of this and the Native American community. They’ve done a great job being collective about their giving.


Mona Das [00:40:21] And their rewards are that they have lots of people in the legislatures. They have lots of people in office. And they’re you know, we passed a bill, a Holocaust bill this year. So there are issues then become front and center.


Mona Das [00:40:33] So when I’m trying to say is use your money, it is political capital. It does make a difference. And people notice, you know, if someone like Congresswoman Pamella Jeb Paul can tap into the Indian community and then myself can follow afterwards. That’s huge. And they’re so proud they cannot wait to get their pictures taken with us and post them all over their social media. But I asked them to then also follow that up with a donation of support because the money is one thing. But really what they’re doing is giving us their energy, their good luck, their vision and their promise. Right. It’s a it’s an unwritten contract that they will support somebody who shares their values. And that is, you know, you got Indians running in your community. Please support them. It’s just it makes all the difference.


soniya gokhale [00:41:30] That’s a beautiful way of phrasing. Absolutely. I’ve never thought of it that way.


soniya gokhale [00:41:33] But yeah, I mean, and it’s from within our own community, it means that much more that your blessings, so to speak, just as being a foe, Indian American. And I think you’re right. It’s looking at it as an investment in your community. They do so at the temples.


Mona Das [00:41:48] So this is another area, just sort of part of our dime on somewhat, but the data indicates as well. So, you know, we’ve great, great friends that will.


soniya gokhale [00:41:59] I can’t believe we’re out of time, but thank you so much. Senator Mona, thanks for joining us this evening.


Mona Das [00:42:05] Thank you for having me. What a fun conversation.


soniya gokhale [00:42:08] It was amazing. Was amazing. And thank you for joining us for this episode of. They see a woman podcast.


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