February 2014 \ Diaspora News \ Politics
Working diary of Indian origin Congresswoman

 This piece highlights the typical working style of Ms Tulsi Gabbard, an Indian origin Member of US Congress from the state of Hawaii. A practicing Hindu, Gabbard frequently recites from the Bhagavad Gita. So when she took her oath in January as a newly-elected member, she did so by placing her hand on a copy of the Hindu scripture. It was the first of its kind in the history of the 223-year-old House of Representatives. Born in American Samoa to a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, Ms Gabbard moved to Hawaii with her family when she was two years old. Her parents gave all their five children Hindu names — Bhakti, Jai, Aryan, Tulsi and Vrindavan. Keen to visit India at an early date, Ms Gabbard has pledged to work for closer US-India relations


I hope you and your ‘ohana are well! I'm missing Hawai‘i’s warmth, especially now! Here's an email with a brief update and recap on my last visit home. This week, I introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to exempt Hawai‘i and Alaska from a significant airline security fee hike that passed Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. The “Aviation Passenger Security Fee” was more than doubled from $2.50 to $5.60 for every one-way airplane trip. For Hawai‘i residents who rely on air travel as a lifeline, this fee hike is absolutely unacceptable. An increase in airline fees or taxes unfairly burdens travelers on our islands who depend on affordable air travel just to go to work, access healthcare, or visit family and friends. We have no other option than to fly interisland. By passing my bill, Congress would again recognize the unique travel needs of our state, as it has done several times in the past.

Staying Connected to You

Last week, I was fortunate to be working and meeting with people across the state of Hawai‘i. Mahalo to the nearly 150 residents who took the time to come out and talk story with me at my townhall meetings in Kane‘ohe and Kona. Listening to your ideas and concerns, and learning how I can best serve you in Congress, are the most important duties of my job.

On O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island, I toured coffee farms and met with members of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. We discussed efforts to combat the devastating Coffee Berry Borer pest that has attacked Hawai‘i crops and other challenges faced by local farmers and small business owners. When I returned to Washington this week, I voted for a FARM bill in the House that included my measure to authorize funding to help our farmers defend against invasive species.

In Honolulu, I had the privilege of delivering the keynote speech to a Sisters in Arms meeting, which was followed by an emotional re-enlistment ceremony for a survivor of a violent sexual assault that was committed by a fellow soldier while on duty. She is now a strong advocate for preventing military sexual assault and provides support for fellow survivor-warriors. Her story is another reminder why we need to bring necessary changes to ensure our men and women in uniform get the justice they deserve.

During my work week in Hawai‘i, I also:

* Paid my respects in memory of 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe, who was killed in action in Iraq nine years ago, in a ceremony at Schofield Barracks, with his father Allen, and brother Nakoa;

* Visited with wounded warriors assigned to the Schofield Barracks Warrior Transition Battalion;

* Met with members of the Japanese Diet to reaffirm our strong U.S.-Japan partnership, and shared interests in the Pacific region;

* Toured the VA's Kona Community Based Outpatient Clinic, which serves West Hawai‘i Island veterans;

* Attended the opening day ceremony for the 63rd annual YMCA Youth in Government program;

* Honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at an annual event hosted by the Honolulu NAACP.

I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to work in Hawai‘i and visit with residents on Lana‘i, Kaua‘i, and in Hana during the week of February 17th. Please remember, my door is always open. I encourage you to share your ideas, questions and concerns with me and my team!

Kung Hee Fat Choy!

Tags: USA, Diaspora