Aruna Miller at the Stromberg Metal Works in Beltsville, Maryland. Aruna has continuously engaged community business leaders on how government can work better and allow them to grow their job base
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SATYAGRAH SOULS is a monthly political series presented by Silicon Valley’s community leader, Saratoga Councilmember Rishi Kumar,  in highlighting the community involvement and success of Indian Americans in the United States. This series seeks to inspire us in giving back to our local community.  We Indian Americans are going through a transitional evolution, as we get entrenched in a new world, embracing new culture, exerting zealous work ethics, supporting the American economy as entrepreneurs, high tech geeks, doctors, lawyers and more. We are definitely imposing the positive intentions and good citizen values upon this fantastic country and making a huge impact. But can our involvement run a bit deeper with issues near and dear to our hearts, perhaps within our local city, or with the local public school that our children attend? Do we sometimes hear our conscience imploring, “Am I doing enough?”.  Yes we can get involved just a bit more, push our comfort zone and enhance the learning and impact our involvement. Our involvement can simply start with developing a healthy curiosity in our local community, instead of being ‘busy’ bystanders. Once we get involved, we will quickly discover, how easy it is for us to make progressive change happen and how receptive everyone around is, to leverage our skills for it. There are leaders waiting to be discovered, why not “me”, by taking that first step? The give-back experience can be freeing, energizing –  personally rewarding and transformative at the same time.

There are many who have made their mark in doing just that. With this monthly series, we want to highlight these SatyAgrah souls who are showing us the path. Here is a SatyaGrah soul, who has found the calling…


Civil engineer, social activist and public servant

Maryland Representative Delegate Aruna Miller

Aruna Miller is serving her second term in the Maryland House of DelegSpotlight 1ate where she represents Maryland’s 15th Legislative District. Located just outside the Washington D.C. beltway, the 15th District is one of
the most racially diverse and politically engaged communities in the United States.

Born in India, Aruna came to the U.S. when she was seven years old. She attended public schools while living in New York and St. Louis before attaining a degree in Civil Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla Missouri.  Aruna has worked in public service throughout her career as a civil engineer overseeing programs that advance access to schools, employment centers, and community facilities that are safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and those with disabilities.

Elected in 2010, Aruna became the first Indian American woman to hold office in the Maryland Legislature. While serving in Annapolis, Aruna has championed several pieces of legislation to protect children and families including: extending the statute of limitations for minors to report sexual offenses, establishing laws to enable GPS tracking of domestic abusers on restraining orders, banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Aruna has also worked in partnership with academic and business leaders to invest in STEM education help to streamline the regulatory process for small businesses, and bring 21st century jobs to Maryland.  Aruna lives in Darnestown, Maryland where she and her husband David have raised their three daughters Meena, Chloe and Sasha.


Taking charge in civic duties over just voting

Stromberg Metal Factory
Aruna Miller at the Stromberg Metal Works in Beltsville, Maryland. Aruna has continuously engaged community business leaders on how government can work better and allow them to grow their job base

America, the quintessential land of opportunity. Arriving into this country at age 7, how has it all worked out for you?

When my father arrived to the United States he was graduate student and a junior engineer at IBM so he didn’t have the money to bring my mother and siblings here all at once.  He worked and saved and one by one brought my mother, my siblings and finally me, the youngest of three.  Up until age 7, I lived in India and was being raised by my grandmother.  Needless to say it was an abrupt change to come to the United States to join my family.  Upon arrival I did not speak English, but with the help of Sesame Street and dedicated public school teachers I quickly learned English and assimilated to life in America.  When I was a senior in high school, my father faced a major health crisis and eventually lost his job. I got a job working at a fast food restaurant. I applied for student loans, obtained Pell grants, and worked my way through college to become a civil engineer.  I married my college sweetheart, we moved to Maryland, built a home, and together we raised three daughters and a few dogs.

What prompted that first foray into politics, as a Civil Engineer, a Transportation engineer that took the plunge into the challenging world of politics. How has the experience of politics enriched your life?

I have had the privilege of being a public servant for my entire career as Civil Engineer.  It was the 2000

Aruna Miller Family: (L-R) David, Sasha, Aruna, Chloe, Grandma Hema & Meena (Dogs) Kiwi, Lucy & Scout

Bush v Gore election where the fate of our country was not determined by the voters but rather by the Supreme Court, that I realized that civic responsibility was more than just voting it was about political engagement.  I immediately got engaged at the grassroots level of our Democratic party.  Eventually, in 2010 I decided to run for office and was elected to the Maryland General Assembly. Serving in the General Assembly has been an honor.  Not only have I been able to cast historic votes to enact marriage equality, increase the minimum wage, support DREAM kids and repeal the death penalty, I have been able to help individual constituents navigate through our government to solve difficult problems.  Each person’s life you can touch in a positive way is a wonderfully positive experience.

And now a run for Congress. How do you expect this election to play out for you? What are your strengths that have done well for you in previous elections?

Since beginning my career in politics, my message has always been about a government that works for the people. It’s important now more than ever that we build an America for the 21st century through investing in education, ensuring our labor policies reflect the needs of modern-day working families and that we promote the clean, green and high-tech jobs of future.  I believe if we have enough resources to get our message out people will respond and campaign will be successful winning the Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District.

How demanding has it  been for you to be a community leader, while juggling the demands of family, life and everything else?

Elementary School Visit
Aruna Miller has participated several years in the Teacher for a Day program that allows legislators to be participate in teaching a class to understand complexities of education

Running for or serving in political office requires sacrifices from everyone in the family.  I have been blessed that from the beginning my family has always been very supportive. Even with the demanding schedule, it’s important to block time out to spend with my family.  While my daughters are now living away from home at school and working, like many people of my generation I am caring for an aging parent.  After my father passed away in 1999, my mother has lived with our family in Maryland.  It has been a wonderful experience for all of us to have multigenerational household but it can present challenges, especially with a demanding schedule. These challenges are not unique.  Like many of the people I represent we make the necessary sacrifices and juggling to keep both career and family life afloat.

As you look back on your community volunteering leading into a leadership community role, what are something you did right, and something that you wish hadn’t?

I know firsthand growing up in an immigrant family that politics and policy were not topics at our dinner table.  My parents’ focus was just trying to assimilate and adjust to their new home in America.  That said, my father had an unwavering belief in the promise of living in the United States and always encouraged that we need to give back. We have a responsibility to submit something larger than ourselves.  I believe my involvement in public service has naturally evolved over the course of my career from civil servant, to grassroots organizer, to elected official.   It has been an organic course with its own trajectory.  I am just humbled to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of our community.

With 5 Indian Americans in Congress, there is immense interest amongst Indian Americans across the country to run for office. In Silicon Valley for example, we have Senator Kamala Harris, Congressman Ro Khanna, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (first in CA) along with 7 other Councilmembers that have placed the political success firmly in the minds of Indian Americans. What advice would you offer to steer Indian Americans to success in America, specially women who are interested?

Aruna speaks out on behalf of women’s rights at George Mason

I am very encouraged that the Indian American community’s representation in United States politics continues to grow.  When I first was elected in 2010 there was only one South Asian in Congress and less than 20 South Asians elected at the state level country wide.  It is encouraging to see each election cycle more South Asians choosing to engage in public service.  We have many qualified people in the Indian American community that with some encouragement would make great candidates and public servants.   Besides encouraging Indian Americans to be more engaged, I always ask them to consider running for public office.  Women especially often need to be asked numerous times to run for office before they consider doing to run.

Friends, this was an interview with Aruna Miller We wish her the very best with the community leadership and I am sure we will continue to read about her stellar leadership over the years.


Dear Readers, Do you have a story to share? We invite you to introduce us to folks in your community who are making a difference – we would love to profile them. Are there similar stories you are familiar with locally. The ones who helped address a simple issue in the community to make life a bit better. Perhaps someone you know decided to make a run for school board, was appointed to the planning commission. Provide us your insights on Indian Americans locally and nationally who are making things happen. These perspectives will help construct roadmaps for our community to empower ourselves, to hopefully ignite a desire in all of us to represent our local communities as doers, leaders, establish and entrench ourselves in this glorious country of America and help make it a better place


ABOUT RISHI: Rishi is an elected city councilmember in Saratoga, CA and politically active in the state of California, as a board member on a few state and national political organizations.  He continues to follow his passion for community service, seeking to provide services to his constituents cheaper, faster and better, in his passion to make a difference. Rishi has diligent service, responsiveness, community outreach and engagement a key focus for his political leadership, be that strong independent voice. As Silicon Valley’s community organizer, Rishi is host of many social, educational, cultural community events, many of which are free and always inclusive usually addressing a need or a cause. Rishi’s day job is as a Silicon Valley hi-tech executive but his zeal for service effervescent. Rishi is also the President of the Bay Area Indian American Democratic Club ( whose charter is to further the interests and values of Indian Americans, work towards political empowerment and advance ethical standards in the political system. You can reach him via his website

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