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Originally published in the summer 2008 Kennedy School Bulletin
When Prakash Puram, MPA1993, emigrated to the United States from Chennai, India, 29 years ago, he didn’t imagine that one day he would be a prominent political activist and presidential appointee in his new home country. A zoologist by education turned business manager, Puram became involved in politics after a very personal experience when his mother was unable to get a tourist visa to come to the United States and see her grandchildren.
“I reached out to all of my local elected leaders for help,” says Puram, “and only U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn) and other Republicans responded, while not a single Democrat did.”
Since becoming involved in politics, Puram has opened his home and his wallet to hundreds of established and aspiring politicians.
“I get involved in local races because they are the next batch of leaders who will make U.S. policy,” he says. “In politics, as in sports, it’s important to foster a good farm team from the ground up. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn) is a great example of the outcome.”
After spending the majority of his career in the private sector, Puram decided to attend the Kennedy School in order to learn how to mesh his business background with his desire to be engaged in public service.
“My teachers and classmates helped me realize how my skills in business could be put to good use in the public sector.”
Puram’s involvement is driven primarily by his desire to “preserve American ingenuity” and his commitment to support Republicans who support free trade at every level, but his support is conditional upon a candidate’s demonstration of an uncommon level of moral character and integrity. He has been rooting for John McCain since 1995 after being introduced by Sen. Boschwitz.
He says, “I look for candidates who have survived hardship because if you’ve faced difficult times and made it through, it keeps you from temptation.”
As a result of Puram’s long-term support for the policies of free trade and his experience in the private sector, in 2005, President Bush appointed him to the U.S. Export Council.