Episode 4. Pia Deshpande

What Voting Means To Me

27-04-2020 • 43 mins

After months of contentious primaries, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating process came to a close in Philadelphia. Nominating the first female candidate for president of a major political party, the Democratic establishment sought to facilitate unity amidst the enmity that had been simmering between Hillary Clinton’s supporters and progressive allies of Independent-turned Democrat Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont. In the middle of this thicket was Pia Deshpande, a then 17-year-old, now graduating senior at Columbia University, who made an impressive run to become a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that summer. In this episode, Pia walks us through the path that lead her to that point, and all that has come for her since: enrollment at the University of Texas and then a transfer to Columbia University as a political science major, an abiding curiosity of the American political system, and a participation in that system as a regular voter. Pia shares the experience and impact of her first vote—on November 8, 2016—and the aftermath of that election on the campus at the University of Texas. As the daughter of parents who immigrated to the United States from India, she also talks about the different paths her parents took with their own engagement in the political system, paths that were shaped, in part, by her father’s survival in one of the buildings hit during the September 11th attacks, as well as subsequent threats she and her family felt as Hindu Indians living in the United States. Ultimately, Pia is a passionate voter who wants others to engage in politics, but recognizes the barriers to participation that many people face. Having experienced first-hand high costs in the process of voting absentee in particular, Pia recognizes how, even today, the vote is not something that is self-evident or a given for so many in the United States.

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