‘Raj has always had the ability
He’s good at being on the go. He likes
doing things and pushing the kids…
He’s athletic, so he makes the kids go hik-
ing with him, and he ends up carrying half
of them plus all the stuff.
Raj Shah at an American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin event. His sister believes he valued the
background for medicine, but wanted to do something broader and less technical than the actual practice
COUR TESY: THE SHAHS
Did he want to be a doctor before that?
I think he valued the background for
medicine, but wanted to do something
broader and less technical than the actual
practice of medicine.
Though their dad is more candid: No! He
didn’t want to.
So, he just stopped?
Yeah, and I think it’s scary for some people — I mean you don’t really make money
from the Gore campaign.
His wife worked long hours at McKinsey,
and she was the one bearing the brunt of
this risk... Gore was unpaid at first.
What was that moment like?
(Laughing) They (the parents) thought
he was going to be unemployed.
His wife was totally supportive. They
were engaged at the time, and she was kind
of like, ‘Even if this is a total bust and you’re
completely unemployable for 10 years, we
can figure this out.’
At this point, Raj’s parents defended their
While his dad said, “It was not a known
path to us,” his mother added, “A lot of
Indian parents would have a hard time.
Because we come here and we have learned
a way to be a secure.”
“We came with nothing and had to make
everything. And we want to give them the
best we can, and that’s the best we knew at
that time — giving them the right type of
education so they can stand on their two
“And then he walks off from there and
selects something else. That’s mind-bog-
gling for us. But we didn’t have a choice at
that time because he was very firm.”
“The day he sat down, I remember that
morning, he said, ‘I’m not asking for your
advice, and no opinions, this is what I’m
going to do. I want your blessing.’
So it was hard.
As a kid, you respond more to what you
see than what you’re told.
We grew up seeing our parents make sacrifices — to take care of their own parents,
to bring the extended family over, to value
taking time for their children — and you
kind of do what you see.
I think that’s where it came from.
So, even though they weren’t like, ‘Pack
up team, we’re going to go spend the day
cleaning out the soup kitchen,’ we still saw
mom spend the night in the hospital with
her mother-in-law who couldn’t speak
We were fortunate; we went to school in a
suburb of Detroit that had an experiential
learning center, and it was very multi-disci-plinary, so we were able to do a little bit of
this a little of that, to do projects.
We did go to soup kitchens, but we didn’t
just peel potatoes.
We learned about gentrification in
Detroit and childhood hunger and met
with professors who were trying to come up
with broader solutions than just donating
And did being from a place that has so
much need play into this?
Growing up we went back to India a few
We saw, well you can’t go to India and not
see the stark difference between rich and
poor there, right?
And then you also grow up in this country
where you see extremely successful Indian
people, which naturally leads to the ques-
tion — any child would ask the question —
‘If Indian people are so smart and winning
all the spelling bees, why are all the people
here so poor and have broken roads and no
I think that’s a natural place of connec-
tion, asking those questions and being
exposed to that.
You see that there are opportunities to
make a difference.
Their dad adds: “Raj, I always kind of
thought that he never liked to take the
straight easy path. He liked to do things in
a more challenging way.”
Yes, it sounds like it!
Yeah, but he was still clear-headed.
When he left to change his path, he knew
the timing was right, and it wasn’t going to
wait for him. ;
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