To make a difference
Again, I have to run on who I am and
what my values are, and I am not going
to run away from that.
The Indian-American community is
not a large portion of our district and so
when I talk about my values, talk about
who I am, I am talking to the broader
American community. Those are
American values. So, there’s no reason
to run away from them.
Your wife is African American, so in
some ways you are like (California
Attorney General) Kamala Devi Harris
— you’ve got this African-American
connection and you are also Indian
American — and in a sense you also
speak to the interests of the African-American community, in terms of the
civil rights struggle.
Could you speak about that, and how
much of an influence and support your
wife Janine has been?
None of us does anything by ourselves.
While my parents and my family set
the foundation, it has really been this
partnership with Janine — in May we
were married 22 years — where you
have a life partner that makes you better. Hopefully, she’d say the same thing
My mom talks to her more than she
talks to me. Sometimes she’ll pick up
the phone and call Janine, who is also a physician. and ask
her questions. And I’ll say, ‘Mom, I am a doctor too, how
come you are not asking me?’
Janine has a very close relationship with my parents.
By your marriage to her, you have a much broader, deeper,
perspective — the fact that you have African-American relatives, that you’ve been part and parcel of that community
Again, it’s that melting pot of America. It allows me to
step into many different communities. Certainly getting the
Indian-American cultural background, getting the African-American cultural background, and then just the broader
American cultural background, that’s what makes this
country remarkable — it’s this melting pot and this fabric
that is woven together.
When you first decided to run for Congress, what did
Was it ‘What the heck are you talking about? What the
heck are you thinking? You are a physician!’?
A lot of that… there was certainly some head-scratching…
but as with everything, we talked about it, we sat and discussed what impact it would have.
Once she saw that I was determined to go out there and
explore running, she was on board 100 percent.
I believe you had the political bug in you from your college
We grew up in a very political household.
My father, as a high school student and then college stu-
dent in Gujarat, was very active in India’s independence
When we were growing up, one thing what we did as a
family was we watched Walter Cronkite every night…
We would eat dinner together and watch the evening
news and talk about what was happening in the world.
So, I was raised with this deep sense of wanting to be
involved in the community and public office was one way to
When I made the decision to go to medical school, it was
because that clearly was another way to give back to the
community and have an impact.
What was the turning point that made you determinedly
decide that you were going to run for Congress?
Was there something that triggered you to do it?
I’ve had the privilege of being able to serve in many
capacities — as chief medical officer for Sacramento
County, as Medical Director for the Mercy Hospital System,
as an Associate Dean within the University of California.
I truly think now is the time where we can’t dance around
We have to have the courage to engage in some of the difficult conversations that we have to have to start moving
the country forward — to start building for the next generation.
So, I found myself saying, I could stand on the sidelines
and complain about what I wasn’t seeing in Congress, or I
could find the courage to step in and try to make a differ-
Ami Bera, left, with wife Janine, right, at the Indiaspora Ball this year. He says, “I am not going to run away from who I
am, what my values are.”
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