I feel privileged to have had opportunity to give back to United States: Vinai Thummalapally

I feel privileged to have had opportunity to give back to United States: Vinai Thummalapally

By AB Wire

The former SelectUSA chief speaks about his 8 years in public service and his friendship with Obama, who was his one-time roommate.

By Asif Ismail

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on prominent Indian and South Asian Americans who served in the Obama administration.

WASHINGTON, DC: Vinai Thummalapally is one of the few political nominees from the Obama administration that served from its early days to the very end. A roommate of the former president in the late 1970s, the Indian American business executive served as the US ambassador to Belize from 2009 to 2013. During Obama’s second term, Thummalapally headed SelectUSA, an agency within the Department of Commerce that is tasked with bringing investments to the United States.

Thummalapally, who came to the United States in 1974 as a student, graduated from California State University Northridge, near Los Angeles, in 1977. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was the president of a Colorado Springs, CO, -based company.

As the sun set on the Obama era on a wintry January afternoon, Thummalapally sat down with The American Bazaar at his suburban Arlington home to reflect on the past eight years, accomplishments of the last administration and his friendship with the former president, among other issues. Here are the edited excerpts.

Your first job in the Obama administration was as an ambassador. How did the call come? Was it out of the blue?

Yes, it was somewhat out of the blue. I was a supporter of the president’s campaign. We go way back — being a college roommate in the late 1970s. We’ve been supporting his political effort since 1995. My family, including our kids, and particularly my wife Barbara, had devoted a lot of time to his campaign. I had played a fairly prominent role in the campaign. I was in the president’s National Finance Committee, helping with raising money, which he termed a necessary evil. He didn’t enjoy raising money and he believes in public financing because of the undue influence of money in politics. But it is what it is and he had to do it. My wife and I did campaign works in nine states; a lot of it was in grassroots work, knocking on doors.

After the election, those who played a significant role in the campaign were asked by the president’s team whether we would be interested in serving the administration. So, I expressed interest. In a questionnaire, we had to pick five out of some 30 areas where jobs were available. Ambassadorship was the fifth box, the last box I checked. The first box I checked was USAID. So the ambassadorship did come as a very big surprise.

Yes, I feel proud that I was the first Indian American to serve as a US ambassador, and that’ll remain forever in the annals of foreign service for the United States.

Read the rest @ https://www.americanbazaaronline.com/2017/01/30/i-feel-privileged-to-have-had-opportunity-to-give-back-to-united-states-vinay-tummalapalli422000/


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