Neera Tanden told lawmakers that she spent every day grateful for a nation and a government that had faith in her mother and in her.(Reuters File Photo)
Neera Tanden told lawmakers that she spent every day grateful for a nation and a government that had faith in her mother and in her.(Reuters File Photo)

Indian-American Neera Tanden owes her success to her immigrant mother

  • Neera Tanden, 50, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman of colour and first Indian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Her mother Maya and family members were present during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
PTI | , Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 10, 2021 02:22 PM IST

Indian-American political consultant Neera Tanden, who has been nominated by President Joe Biden as his budget director, attributed her success to the grit and resilience of her mother, an immigrant from India who was left to make it on her own in America with two young children after divorce.

Tanden, 50, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman of colour and first Indian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which serves the President of the United States in overseeing the implementation of his vision across the executive branch.

Her mother Maya and family members were present during her confirmation hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

“I owe my presence here to their love and support and to the grit and resilience of my mother, an immigrant from India who was left to make it on her own in America with two young children after her divorce from my father. Back then, she faced a harsh choice. Stay in the United States and rely on the social safety net or return to India where she knew her children would face the stigma of divorce,” Tanden told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing.

“She (mother) had faith in this country and made the decision, I believe the courageous decision, to stay. We relied on food stamps to eat, Section 8 vouchers to pay the rent,” she told the Senators.

“At school, I remember being the only kid in the cafeteria line who used USD 0.10 vouchers from the free and reduced lunch programme. I remember using food stamps in the grocery store. Within just a few years, my mother found a job and a few years later, she was earning a middle-class salary. Soon, she was able to buy a home and eventually, she saw her children off to college and beyond,” Tanden said.

Senator Amy Klobuchar who introduced her during the hearing also praised her mother Maya.

“Neera is the daughter of Indian immigrants and grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts, raised by her mom Maya, Neera learned the value of perseverance at a very young age. Determined to succeed, like so many immigrants, Maya put her kids first and, as a single mom, she first relied on food stamps and public housing to make ends meet,” Klobuchar said.

“Maya then found new footing and began working as a travel agent, forging her family's path to the middle class. It is her mother's work ethic and resolve that all of us see in Neera and it's those same qualities that I know will serve her well as our next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” she said.

“As she started out as a travel agent, Maya may not have ever thought that her daughter would one day be asked to serve in the cabinet of the president of the United States. But after years of never taking no for an answer and setting high expectations for Neera, somehow we all ended up here today. Maya, Neera, her family, and all of us.

Growing up, Neera understood the circumstances of her family's struggle and watched social programs work. Because of what--that personal connection, she knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue public service,” the Senator said.

Tanden told lawmakers that she spent every day grateful for a nation and a government that had faith in her mother and in her, that invested in humanity and gave her a fair shot to pursue her potential.

“As I sit before this committee, I'm mindful that my path in life would never have been possible without budgetary choices that reflected our nation's values, many of them made in the very agency I am now nominated to lead,” she said.

During the hearing, Tanden also apologised for deleting the tweets that were critical of the Republican Senators and its leadership.

“I appreciate people's concerns about my tweets and I've regretted them. And I deleted tweets because I regretted my tone. I've deleted tweets over many months. But for those concerned about --my rhetoric and my language, I'm sorry for any hurt that they've caused,” Tanden said.

Senator Rob Portman said that there are media reports that during November of 2020 after the election, more than 1,000 tweets were deleted from Tanden’s account. “Some of these public statements have been tweets. Are these media reports that you deleted more than 1,000 tweets in November in advance of your nomination accurate? And if so, why did you delete them?” he asked.

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