- Indian American Center for Political Awareness
The Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA) is a nonprofit, bipartisan, organization was founded in 1993 by publisher
Gopal Raju. He saw that the Indian American community's economic and professional success did not translate into political influence. The Center was started mainly to empower the Indian American community - particularly the younger generation - to participate in the political process and public policy.
In 1995 IACPA started the Washington Leadership Program (WLP) to introduce Indian American college students to the political process through Congressional internships. The idea was to enable them to get a first hand look at how the political process works. Each year WLP selects college students to participate in an eight-week summer program, which includes the first and the last week of orientation and evaluation specially designed by WLP.
In 1993 WLP expanded its scope by sending six interns to visit India for a week, to understand the political process of the world's largest democracy, interact with policy-makers and think-tanks. In 2005 WLP program was further expanded to Council level internships in New York, with a view to expand in other cities.
In an effort to create a distinct Indian American voice on the Hill, the Center also commissioned occasional papers ---'The Kashmir Dispute' and 'Nuclear Weapons in South Asia' by Rajesh Rajgopalan in 1996, 'India and the United States: The first 50 years' by Selig Harrison in 1997 and 'Lobbying in America: A Primer for Citizen Participation' by Ralph Nurnberger in 2000 -- commissioned studies -- the first study of Indian American political behavior in conjunction with the Kennedy school of Government at Harvard University; the Center conducted an in-depth analysis of Census 2000 data with focus on the growth of the Indian American community -- conducted briefings, lectures, seminars, Town Hall Meetings -- in 2002 in Arizona, after two Indian Americans were shot at in a post 9/11 backlash, designed to build bridges between the law enforcement officials and the community and to better explain the Indian American perspective -- and a weekly newsletter to a select readership on the Hill including India-caucus members and other lawmakers.
The Center has also solicited scores of editorials on India and Indian Americans from Congressional Representatives, which were published in weeklies owned by Raju.
Before the 2004 Presidential elections, IACPA sponsored a political Talk Show, 'Capitol Debates' on a national ethnic television channel, TV Asia. Although it was meant for a few weeks before and after the election, IACPA continued in for almost a whole year. Many of the transcripts of the shows were published in News India-Times.
Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA's) goals are
* To inspire, encourage and introduce Indian Americans to public service, both in the United States and in India.
* In the United States it would mean civic and political engagement, with a view to influence public policy, to benefit the community, here, in the U.S. and US-India relations; because historically it has been proven that the two tend to move together.
* In India it would mean, the diaspora, using their spare resources -- expertise, time and money to help India and Indians wherever such help is needed. Again this has the potential of resulting in mutual gain. With more education, literacy, poverty alleviation, improved infrastructure, and improved healthcare -- India could offer better potential for global competition resulting in better potential for foreign investment including from the non-resident Indian.
* To be a legislative watchdog monitoring and analyzing legislations at the State and Federal levels which impact India and Indian Americans. The defeat of the so-called Burton Amendment to restrict foreign aid to India has been attributed, in part, to the work of WLP interns on Capitol Hill. And more recently the community rallied around the Civilian Nuclear Agreement with the U.S. The efforts were visible enough to elicit comments from the U.S. business community, lobbyists, lawmakers and even President Bush. According to some historians, legislation to benefit immigrant communities and diplomatic relations with their country of origin are inter-related.
Washington Leadership Program (WLP)
Sixty-two Representatives and fourteen
Senators have hosted over 160 WLP interns so far. The program has been described as 'life-changing' by some of the participants and what is important is that it has also gained respect from the members of Congress and their staff
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