Indiaspora’s 5th Anniversary Leadership Forum

September 29, 2017 - October 1, 2017 Lansdowne Resort and Spa

This year our annual invitation-only flagship event took place in an idyllic, resort-like environment about 35 miles from Washington, DC, at Lansdowne Resort and Spa. Indian-American and Indian leaders from various professions and diverse backgrounds convened for a weekend filled with intellectually stimulating content, enjoyable camaraderie and high-level networking.

The Leadership Forum kicked off on Friday, September 29th, with exclusive, intimate meetings for Indiaspora’s members on Capitol Hill at the Capitol Visitors Center. Invited guests included incumbent Congressman Ami Bera from California, who is considered the “Dean” of what is now affectionately termed the “Samosa Caucus” in Congress, given the wave of freshmen Indian-American members elected this term. Indiaspora’s members also met with the Administration, including senior White House official Raj Shah, who serves as Deputy Assistant to the President and Principal Deputy Press Secretary. A meeting with Dr. Ken Weinstein, who is CEO and President of the Hudson Institute, served as invaluable insight on tapping potential allies for trilateral relations with the U.S. and India. Indiaspora also further expanded on its platform in shaping U.S.-India-Israel trilateral relations by meeting with AJC (American Jewish Committee)’s Jason Isaacson, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Managing Director, Government and International Affairs. Ambassador Atul Keshap, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, also provided brief remarks to Indiaspora’s members during the day-long event.

Friday evening marked the official start of the 5th Anniversary Leadership Forum with a Welcome Reception at Lansdowne Resort and Spa. More than 150 prominent Indian-American leaders and about a dozen up-and-coming Indiaspora Fellows arrived for the weekend-long conference. Several of the attendees were veterans of the event and return annually to meet with old friends, to make new ones, and to partake in the annual top-notch programming. The evening concluded with an exclusive screening of The Tiger Hunter, which chronicles the comic and heartfelt exploits of an Indian-American engineer who has recently arrived in America. Director Lena Khan provided a Q&A session after the screening of the film, which was released in theatres the week prior.

Indiaspora’s programming began on Saturday with the panel discussion “Carpe Diem,” a rousing exploration of how to capture on Indiaspora’s current momentum to further its mission and objectives. Indiaspora Board Members took to the stage to answer questions regarding the nonprofit’s past, present and future trajectory in transforming the success of Indian-Americans into meaningful impact in the U.S. and worldwide. Next, in a poignant and compelling session, “Log Kya Kahenge,” Sheena Iyengar, Professor of Management at Columbia Business University, shared the stigma she faced growing up as a visually impaired woman in the Indian-American community, and the burdensome and personally destructive nature of secrets.

After a series of stimulating and intimate breakout sessions (see agenda below for a complete list of breakout sessions), the afternoon plenary session on U.S.-India Relations featured an all-star policy panel, including former U.S. Ambassador to India Rich Verma, former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the U.S. Department of State Nisha Biswal, American Enterprise Institute Fellow Sadanand Dhume, and CSIS Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies Rick Rossow. The panel was moderated by Manpreet Singh Anand, previously Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at Department of State.

Saturday’s afternoon plenary session also featured a panel on philanthropy moderated by Shyam Lal with Indiaspora Founders Circle members Frank Islam, who spoke about empowering individuals through purposeful philanthropy and the role of the press, and Sunil Wadhwani, whose remarks and work with his WISH Foundation’s health care initiatives in India provided a natural continuation of the conversation regarding Indiaspora’s objective to aid and magnify the power of philanthropic giving by Indian-Americans.

Saturday’s evening entertainment featured a hilarious set from Vijai Nathan on her trials and tribulations as an Indian-American comedienne, as well as an impromptu aural performance with audience participation by world-renowned classical composer Kanniks Kannikeswaran, which wrapped up the day’s events.

The 5th Anniversary Leadership Forum concluded on Sunday with an emotionally evocative and aptly named plenary session–“From Inspiration to Impact”–followed by a final series of breakout sessions. Several changemakers spoke about their NGO’s, which are disrupting the status quo and impacting India in profound and meaningful ways. To hear from these dynamic individuals, please check out their video presentations in the tab below.

We would like to express heartfelt gratitude to all of the attendees who made this year’s Leadership Forum a success, and for the feedback provided in the follow-up survey. We look forward to next year’s Leadership Forum. Stay tuned for details in the coming months!