Aditi Hardikar, courtesy of the White House. By Logan McGrady, ’13.
We previously reported that Aditi Hardikar, ’11, has been appointed as the White House LGBT and Asian American Pacific Islander Liaison. Her responses made it clear that Michigan was a catalyst for future success. At U-M she explored her political interests and even found an internship at the White House. Working for the highest level of the executive branch at just 25 years-old is an amazing accomplishment.
AAUM: Your political involvement goes back at least to your time as a student. How did U-M influence your career path?
Aditi: The University of Michigan has such a rich and storied history of student activism, and simply by being a U-M student and learning about the University’s past establishes a sense of student political and social awareness. Particularly, as a student of the Residential College, I was introduced to social justice and activism early on. From there, I joined Yoni Ki Baat, a multicultural women’s organization, was heavily involved in the U-M LGBT Spectrum Center, and College Democrats around the 2008 presidential election.
AAUM: What made you particularly passionate about LGBT issues?
Aditi: I had long been an advocate for social justice, coming from a politically active family, but especially after coming out my freshman year at Michigan, I became more heavily involved in LGBT groups on campus. I explored ways to advance the rights of LGBT people, both on campus and nationwide – and then globally.
AAUM: How did arrive professionally at this position?
Aditi: The summer before my junior year at U-M, I was accepted into the White House Internship Program, and actually interned for the LGBT liaison at the time (now a personal friend and mentor). After I graduated in 2011, I moved to Washington, DC where I began contracting with the Center for American Progress in their youth outreach department. But that summer, a former White House intern I had met through my internship let me know of the LGBT outreach work he was doing on the Obama-Biden presidential re-election in the Chicago headquarters. I decided to move to Chicago and intern for the campaign for about a half-year, until eventually I was hired in January of 2012 as the Deputy Director of LGBT Finance and LGBT Vote. From then on, I had the privilege of remaining in the “Obama family” and moved back to Washington, DC to work as the LGBT Finance Director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and then as the LGBT Leadership Council Director and Asian American Leadership Council Director for the Democratic National Committee. The opportunity arose for my current position, and it was an honor I was thrilled to accept.
AAUM: What is your biggest goal as the LGBT and AAPI liaison?
Aditi: President Obama has done more for the LGBT community than has any other president in United States history. We’ve accomplished so much under this President – let alone the last forty years – and there still remains work to be done. My goal is to build upon this extraordinary work and continue to move the LGBT community to full equality under law, all the while finding a way to making more and more Americans feel as though their lives matter and their voices are heard. As for the AAPI community, my goal is to address the diverse and nuanced needs of the AAPI community – given that it comprises hundreds of languages, several different religions, and diversity of geographic location – and find new ways to engage the community in the Administration’s priorities.
AAUM: You’re only 25. Did you expect to be in such a prominent position early in your career?
I’m a firm believer in hard work, a good attitude, and being in the right place at the right time. I’m so fortunate to have been afforded the opportunities to serve the President and the goals of Administration, and am acutely aware of the role that my mother and older sister continue to play in my upbringing and political consciousness. I’m also grateful to the experiences I had at the University of Michigan, which undoubtedly helped to shape my career path and ideals – the Michigan difference.
AAUM: What are some of your favorite U-M memories? You had a political science/econ double major, and I know you were heavily involved with music.
Aditi: There are too many favorite U-M memories to name! First and foremost, I made friendships that are still close to my heart and will be lifelong. I was the director of 58 Greene, U-M’s multicultural, co-ed a cappella group, where we sought to address social justice issues through music. One of my favorite memories with the “Greenies” is performing at the Big House on my graduation day in May of 2011; it’s hard to top that on my list of favorite memories!