Swearing On The Bhagavad Gita: First Indian-American Lt. Governor in nation takes office in Maryland

Lt. Governor of Maryland, Aruna Miller taking the oath of office with Bhagavad Gita in the presence of her family on January 18, 2023, in Annapolis, Maryland. PHOTO: https://twitter.com/BrookeELierman

Annapolis/Baltimore, Maryland: On a beautiful day with clear blue skies, Jan. 18, 2023, with her left hand on the sacred Bhagavad Gita, and right hand raised, Aruna Miller became the first ever Indian-American in the nation’s history to be sworn in as the Lt. Governor of Maryland.

“I, Aruna Katragadda Miller, do swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland,” Miller said before  the Chief Justice of Maryland Supreme Court Matthew J. Fader, as the state achieved another   milestone welcoming its first Black Governor in Wes Moore.

Both have pledged to “leave no one behind,” and to deal with  challenges such as equity imbalance, rise in violent crimes, and lack of access to basis necessities.

Lt. Governor of Maryland, Aruna Miller addressing the gathering after being sworn in on January 18, 2023, in Annapolis, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times
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“It wasn’t just the first day of school where I felt I didn’t belong. In fact, I would say I spent most of my life trying to fit into a space that didn’t have me in mind,” Miller recalled as she talked about challenges growing up as an immigrant. “As an immigrant growing up in a new country, or as a female engineer in a male dominated field, as an Indian-American legislator in a legislature that looked nothing like me, it took me a long time to realize that it was never about needing to fit into a space created by others. It was always about having the courage to be my authentic self in every space.”

About struggles endured by minority communities and how opportunities are denied to them over the years, Miller noted, “Too many people have been left behind from our black and brown communities seeking to feel safe in their own skin, from women who are fighting for their autonomy over their own bodies,” while highlighting the struggles these families cope with to gain access to basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare.

Governor of Maryland, Wes Moore addressing the gathering after being sworn in on January 18, 2023, in Annapolis, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

During his inaugural address, Moore while thanking Maryland for his resounding victory, talked about his mom, and Miller’s mom who were present at the inauguration. “There are two people who embody that spirit sitting right here, in the front row. Two extraordinary women named Hema and Joy. Hema came to this country from India; Joy from Jamaica. They immigrated to America with hope in their hearts, not just for themselves, but for future generations.”

“Today, they are sitting here at the inauguration of their children as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the State that helped to welcome them,” Moore added. “To Aruna’s mother, Hema… and to my mom, Joy… you epitomize everything special about this state; You are proof that in Maryland, anything is possible.”

Both Moore and Miller addressed a press conference at the Baltimore Convention Center prior to the People’s Inaugural Ball where, responding to a question from News India Times about her historic election, Miller said, “It’s a great sense of joy and pride,” and added,  “And again, this moment isn’t about me. It really speaks volumes about the people of Maryland. The people who voted, the people who came and supported us. You know, whether they were volunteers, donors, whoever they were, they believed in a future that can be bright. And really that’s what it really symbolizes…”

From left, Dawn Moore, Wes Moore, Aruna Miller, and David Miller at the press conference on January 18, 2023, at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

She encouraged Indian-American women, and all other women and people in general to consider a life of public service.

She also explained why she chose to swear on the Bhagavad Gita.

“This is an ancient Hindu script. And essentially growing up as a child I grew up in an interfaith home, where Hinduism and Christianity were practiced… We are seekers of peace and making sure that good things happen in the world to others as well. And that’s really the primary purpose of the Gita if you read the whole book. That’s what it talks about. And so it’s very symbolic to myself…”

A group performing Bhangra dance at the People’s Inaugural Ball on January 18, 2023, at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Miller spoke of her priorities as Lt. Governor. “[I will] focus on transit, in particular public transit, to make that more dependable and reliable, because when we can do that, we make it more equitable for people… Again, given my STEM background, I want to see more people of color, more women getting into this space…”

On mental health, Miller said everyone experiences it either personally or through loved ones.  “And I know in my own case, my father suffered from it. And I want to make sure that going forward other people don’t suffer the way my father did.”

Speaking at the People’s Inaugural Ball that was attended by over 11,000 people, and featured performances from Chris Tucker, D-Nice and others, Moore said “To my partner in this work and the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland — Aruna Miller — I am so grateful that together we will face the challenges ahead as we fight for Maryland that leaves no one behind.”

At the inauguration, Miller’s daughters Meena, Chole, and Sasha introduced their mother, shared a few anecdotes, and proudly welcomed her to the stage. Meena, referred to Miller as her hero because of her “commitment to public service” and credited her as the reason for becoming a public-school teacher.

“I move through the world the way that I do because of her. She leads with values. She will say yes, when it matters most and that is how she will serve the people. Today feels like a dream. And it was only possible because of all of you that chose to say yes,” said Meena. “So thank you Maryland for saying yes to Wes Moore. Thank you for saying yes to my mom, Aruna Miller, and for saying yes to a better future for our State. It is my honor to share my hero with Maryland.”

Aruna Miller addressing the gathering along with her husband David Miller at the People’s Inaugural Ball on January 18, 2023, at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

Oprah Winfrey who introduced Moore recalled she met the incoming Governor in 2010 for an interview, and was impressed by his integrity and wisdom. “It is my honor to introduce you as my friend, to introduce you as someone who I believe in, as a man I truly respect, and a man I show trust. I trust you. I trust your vision. I trust your leadership. And I want you (the audience) to know you can trust too in your new Governor Wes Moore.”

Former first-daughter Chelsea Clinton, State Senator Susan Lee, who is nominated as the first Asian-American to the post of Secretary of State of Maryland, Maryland Governors Larry Hogan and Martin O’Malley, US Senators from Maryland Chris Van Hollen, and Ben Cardin, first woman Comptroller of Maryland, Brooke Lierman, Miller’s sister Lakshmi Katragadda, brother Sathya Katragadda, and sister-in-law Neelima Katragadda were also among other invited guests at the inauguration.

“It’s a matter of enormous pride for all Indian-Americans. Gov. Moore is a role model for having picked an immigrant to serve as Lt. Governor – it proves that he’s an optimist and not opportunistic,” former Deputy Secretary of State of Maryland, Rajan Natarajan who was present at the inauguration told News India Times. Elisha Pulivarti, CEO of US-India SME Council said, “Both Moore and Miller will be of great support to minority and women owned small businesses.”

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