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Indian Americans Walk Tall At Bush Fundraiser

February 2004
Indian Americans Walk Tall At Bush Fundraiser

Republican Activist Reddy Raises $70,000 For Re-election Campaign

BY VEENA RAO

______________________________________________________________

At the Atlanta fundraiser attended by President George Bush at the World Congress Center on January 15, one group of people was highly visible in a predominantly Caucasian gathering. Of the almost two-dozen Indian Americans that attended the $2000-a-plate event, many were doctors, moteliers and realtors. And interestingly, although many in the motley crowd were self-proclaimed Republicans, some were known Democrats.

Indian American presence at Republican fundraisers obviously has not escaped the attention of the President, who is supposed to have remarked to local Republican activist Narender Reddy at a closed door meeting earlier, "The Indian American community is a talented one, and I am glad have (their) help in the administration." The President also promised to continue the tradition of celebrating Diwali in the White House. On Reddy's invitation to visit India he said, "I think I will."

At the fundraiser, the President appeared relaxed, in the midst of a sea of supporters ? unlike at his earlier engagement at the Martin Luther King Center where around 1000 protestors booed as he laid a wreath at the tomb of the civil rights leader on his birth anniversary.

He spoke about his administration's achievements over the past three years, touching upon the war on terrorism, healthcare, education, faith based programs etc. "I took this office to solve problems, not to pass them on to future presidents or to future generations. My administration is meeting the test of time," he said. Speaking about the war on terrorism, he said, "Terrorists declared war on the United States and war is what they got."

Bush said key members of Al-Qaeeda had been captured, and the (earlier) regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq were no more. "The 50 million people that live in Afghanistan and Iraq, live in freedom," he added. He said his administration deserved credit for increasing the military budget, thus increasing the strength of the military. "Today, nobody can question the strength of the US," he said.

He also credited his administration for getting the economy going, and bringing corporate criminals to task. "We are laying foundations for greater prosperity so that every single person realizes the American dream," he said. The President further added that at 8.2%, the economy is showing the fastest growth pace in 20 years.

The President then dwelled on his ?No child left behind' reforms. "Every school is expected to teach every child to read and write," he said.

President Bush credited the Congress for his administration's success, while ruing the needless politics and backbiting in Washington. "We need to focus on results," he said.

In three years, the President said, the administration had come far. "But our work is just beginning," he said. "Freedom of peace depends on the actions of America," he added, emphasizing that "America will never be intimidated by a bunch of thugs and assassins."

"Free nations do not support terror or threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction," he said. "Freedom is not America's gift to the world ? it is God's gift."

President Bush said his administration would continue to be pro-growth, pro-small business and less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Pointing to a changing culture in the country, he said America must welcome faith-based programs. "If you're fortunate enough to be a mother or a father, you're responsible for loving your child with all your heart. If you're worried about the quality of the education in the community in which you live, you are responsible for doing something about it. If you're a CEO in corporate America, you're responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees. And in this new responsibility society, each of us is responsible for loving our neighbor just like we'd like to be loved ourself."

Earlier, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue introduced the President. He said the President's perseverance and determination is absolutely astounding. "He is fast becoming one of the finest presidents of all times. We need a president who takes hard and tough decisions to continue the war on terror."

Democrat Senator Zell Miller, in his address, endorsed President Bush. He also assured that he would not be the only Democrat working for his re-election. "I want a commander-in-chief who will make a decision. The future belongs not to the faint hearted but to the brave," he said, adding that President Bush was a man with "a good heart and a spine of steel."

The crowds cheered the President often. And for many members of the Indian American community, the fundraiser was a way of getting to know President Bush better. "We did not attend the last fundraiser because we did not know the President then. We never had accessibility to them (Republicans) earlier," said Dr Naresh Parikh of the Georgia Association of Physicians from India (GAPI).

Suresh Prabhu, who said he has been an active Republican only since over a year, was at the fundraiser because he saw a great opportunity to meet the President. Motelier RC Patel said he was there as a member of the host committee.

Narender Reddy, who supposedly devoted several days entirely to raising funds for the event, also credited realtor Vilas Patel with assisting him in the daunting task.

Out of a total of $1.3 million that was raised at the Atlanta fundraiser, Reddy was responsible for $70,000. Reddy holds distinction of being one of only seven lobbyists to reach the fundraising limit of $60,000 (he raised $70,000), which provided him with the privilege of a meeting with the President, besides bestowing upon him the title of vice-chair for the event.

Apparently, there are different levels to raising funds for the Bush Cheney campaign. Raising $20,000 makes you a member of the Host Committee, while reaching the $60,000 level puts you in the Vice Chair league. A total of $100,000 makes you a Pioneer, while raising $200,000 and gets you designated as a Ranger, and also gives you access to the White House.

Reddy said his next goal would be to increase his total from $70,000 to $100,000 by June, which would make him a designated Pioneer.

Like the September fundraiser in Mississippi where President Bush is reported to have told the Indian delegation that he opposed House Resolution 2688, (a bill introduced by Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado that proposes to abolish H-1B) the Atlanta fundraiser had its moments for the community, at least in terms of giving it visibility amidst a sea of supporters.


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