By JAY REY
Published November 9, 2022
Introducing the vice president of the United States was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for UB student Srikrithi Krishnan.
Or so she thought.
But a month after introducing Kamala Harris during her visit to UB, Srikrithi got the chance to do it all over again.
This time, it was at the home of the vice president.
It all started on Oct. 13, a Thursday night, when Srikrithi, a first-year graduate student majoring in public health and business administration, received an email from the vice president’s office. It was an invitation to celebrate Diwali, India’s biggest holiday, on the evening of Oct. 21 at the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
“I didn’t know if I should even open it,” she says. “I thought it was like a scam or spam email.”
It wasn’t. In fact, two days before her trip, a staffer from the vice president’s office reached out. The staffer told Srikrithi what a wonderful job she had done introducing the vice president during her visit to UB in September.
Would she consider introducing Harris at the Diwali celebration?
“Introducing her once is amazing, but doing it twice?” Srikrithi says. “It’s just mind-blowing.”
Srikrithi, with the help of her father, spent the next couple of days writing her remarks before leaving for Washington.
On the evening of Oct. 21, she arrived at the vice president’s residence around 5 p.m., as guests lined up to enter. One by one, the visitors were escorted into a room of the house where Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, greeted them and posed for a photo.
“She did a great job introducing me at UB,” Harris told her husband, as they welcomed Srikrithi. “She’ll be introducing me today.”
Outside, the Diwali celebration was beginning in the backyard.
Bistro tables were set up beneath the holiday decorations and lights that illuminated the yard, where a large swimming pool was at its center. Invited guests numbered about 150 and included the likes of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy; Amita Gupta, director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins; and Charithra Chandran, the British actress of “Bridgerton” fame.
“As far as I know, I was the youngest person there, so it was definitely a little unnerving because I’m surrounded by people who have done so much — and I’m in grad school,” Srikrithi says. “But they were all really, really nice.”
The evening kicked off with a traditional Indian dance, followed by remarks from the second gentleman and a second cultural performance.
Then, it was Srikrithi’s turn at the podium.
Srikrithi, whose parents are from India, talked about being torn between two worlds while growing up attending Williamsville Central Schools. But it was pioneers like Harris, who is Black and of Indian descent, who made her less afraid to embrace her own culture.
“As I grew up in this country, exposed to two different cultures, I looked up to women who had come before me and grew up in a similar cultural cauldron,” Srikrithi told the guests. “I was inspired by how they dreamt of greater success. They pursued their dreams and achieved their goals while still embracing their culture. And who else can be a better inspiration for embodying all of these values than the person I am here to introduce tonight.
“I am delighted to have the honor of introducing someone who has set a pioneering path,” Srikrithi said. “Someone who has climbed to the highest levels of success as a woman, as a person of African American and Indian heritage, someone who continues to be an inspiration for me — the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris.”
The guests applauded as the vice president stepped to the podium and hugged the UB student.
“She’s becoming a pro at this,” Harris said of Srikrithi’s introduction. “Aren’t we so proud?”
The evening ended around 7:30 p.m. with guests wishing each other “Happy Diwali” and lighting sparklers on the lawn.
Srikrithi has UB to thank.
The Western New York Prosperity Fellowship and the School of Public Health and Health Professions helped Srikrithi with last-minute travel arrangements and lodging so she could represent UB at the event and introduce the vice president — for the second time.
“It was still definitely crazy and insane,” Srikrithi says, “but this time I was able to take it all in a little more.”
Srikrithi's introductory words express beautifully the best side of America: intercultural, multiracial (not a distinction I like to make), interfaith, a country open to talent and one that makes the emergence of talent possible. It is a tribute to Srikrithi's family, high school, UB and, most important, this gifted young woman herself that she was so ably to introduce the vice president. As someone who has lectured in India on three visits and met so many impressive writers and educators, I am not surprised that their children, raised in Western New York, have developed so wonderfully.
Howard R. Wolf
That is awesome. Such a great experience for her. I think big things are in store for her. Congratulations!