Advancing Equity and Opportunity at the White House

Navraj Singh, COL ’24, Fredericksburg, VA

This summer, I completed an internship with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI). In this role, I had the opportunity to support the Biden administration in advancing the goals of Executive Order 14031, authorized in May 2021 to help advance equity, justice, and opportunity for the AANHPI community. Although the experience was mostly remote, living in Washington, D.C. for the summer allowed me to engage in person with my colleagues, attend networking events with high-ranking federal officials, and explore the city. Working in public service this summer was also a component of fulfilling my duties as a Penn Student Government Public Service Fellow.

My time at the Initiative was an unforgettable experience that involved conducting research, writing briefs and summaries to be viewed by senior executive staff, attending and taking notes at federal meetings, processing White House event requests and speaker invitations, and completing various administrative tasks. I even had the chance to represent the Initiative at meetings with community stakeholders and federal members in different parts of the country to collect data that informs how the Biden administration engages with the AANHPI community and how the administration can leverage federal resources to meet the needs of underserved communities.

It was empowering to have been able to represent my community in the halls of power, especially for such a historic undertaking. I am a child of Indian immigrants and I grew up in a mostly white Virginia suburb one hour outside of the nation’s capital. I am also a member of the Punjabi Sikh community, which is itself an underrepresented sub-population of Asians and has been the target of several hate crimes in recent years. I felt during the internship that both my personal identity and my professional contributions were valued by the Initiative’s impressive staff of Asian American public servants who were just as passionate about their backgrounds. I engaged directly with the Executive Director of the Initiative, Krystal Ka’ai, who is Native Hawaiian. Furthermore, I had conversations with Asian American members of the Executive Office of the President over lunch from the White House Mess, learning from the very individuals tasked with vetting presidential appointees. Lastly, one member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, Lt-Colonel Kamal Singh Kalsi, D.O., is also a leader in the Sikh community and expressed to me his excitement for my participation in the internship.

This was certainly one of the more demanding internships I have participated in. Considering the fact that the Initiative was launched less than two years ago, after having been dissolved by previous administrations, part of the work involved building out the Initiative and learning along the way. This made the experience feel even more historic, knowing that my work this summer was laying groundwork for future projects aimed at healing the relationship between the federal government and the AANHPI community. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to support a presidential administration in realizing its vision of creating a more diverse, just, and equitable American future and workforce. After completing this internship, I have achieved a better understanding of the inner workings of the executive branch and clearer vision of where I see myself in the future.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services