Deep speaking to students and parents at Morven Park in Leesburg, Va

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…



Teacher, entrepreneur, lawyer & columnist

Deep Sran is a classroom teacher, private school founder, edtech entrepreneur, lawyer, and newspaper columnist who lives in northern Virginia. He is running for Congress in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. Deep lives in Ashburn, VA, with his wife, Anjili, and their two daughters.

Deep, Anjili, and their daughters at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Va

Deep grew up in Maryland to parents who were born in Punjab before partition. His father emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1950s and completed his engineering degree at Howard University. His mother emigrated in the early 1960s and completed her medical training at Johns Hopkins University. His father is Sikh and his mother is Hindu, so he grew up in a household that valued service (seva) and open-mindedness. His parents were instrumental in founding the local gurudwara, the Guru Nanak Foundation, in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they still live.


Deep is a product of Montgomery County, MD, public schools, including graduation from a competitive STEM magnet high school. He completed his political science degree at the University of Maryland, his law degree at Georgetown University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland.

Deep worked as a corporate lawyer at large firms in Baltimore and Chicago before beginning his doctoral work in educational psychology and cognitive science. After graduate school, he worked as a teacher and administrator at an urban charter high school in Washington, DC. He founded his own independent school – Loudoun School for the Gifted – in 2008 to create a place where teachers had the autonomy to design and deploy the best ideas in secondary education. In 2012, he co-founded Actively Learn with an old friend, Jay Goyal, to create a digital reading platform to improve student learning based on technology he had patented. Actively Learn recently passed the million-user-signup milestone.

Deep continues to work in the classroom, and a number of his students are working as interns on his campaign.


Restoring voters’ faith amid partisan politics

 Deep, from accomplishments in education to running for Congress. How did this come about?

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Deep in his office at Loudoun School for the Gifted in Ashburn, Va

The question I have always considered most important is, “How do we build a better world?” My work in political science and law convinced me that education is the best way to make enduring positive change. This is why I have committed almost 20 years to designing better schools and better technology for schools. However, even as I have worked in the classroom, I have paid close attention to the direction and tone of politics in America. During the 2016 Presidential election, for the first time in my life, I saw hints that we are starting to take steps backward, starting to undo generations of progress. Since I take personal responsibility for the state of the world, I realized I had to be part of the solution. Given my experience, running for office was the most direct way for me to help change how we engage with our fellow Americans politically, and how we work together to solve difficult national problems.

Tell us about your formative years, as you watched your parents get involved with the Gurudwara, how did you get affected by their volunteerism and community efforts?

My parents came to the U.S. relatively early – my dad in the late 1950s and my mom in the early 1960s. Both were born in Punjab before partition, and my father fled what is now Pakistan as a refugee. My mother happened to be in India that summer and they never went home again. Listening to my parents’ stories of persistence and optimism, and listening to their experiences in the larger context of the 20th Century – growing up in colonial India, reading about the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, seeing the violence of Partition, looking for economic opportunity outside India, coming to segregated America, seeing the riots after MLK was shot, and building a great life because of all America offers – I realized that my family’s story is the story of what is possible in this country.

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Dr. Deep Sran speaking in front of the historic Ashburn Colored School after the vandalism in October 2016

In the Indian community in Washington, DC, in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, that meant a lot of firsts, and being the change you wanted to see in the world. For example, if you wanted a gurudwara close to home, you had to work with your friends to build it, which is what my parents did with their friends in the 1970s. Originally, our services used to be held on weekends in local public schools. So that meant my parents and their friends would do all the cooking on Friday and Saturday; they would load up their cars, arrive early on Sundays to finish preparation, and they would set up the hall. Then, after langar, we would clean everything up and begin planning for the next weekend.

All of this was done by close friends working to build a community. The effort was not done in the service of a single faith, given how open the community was. It was done with a commitment to service for others. I never had the sense that my parents and their friends did what they did out of ideology. They did what they did for each other.

 You met current Assemblymember Ash Kalra of California when you were both at Georgetown many years ago. What do you remember of Ash then? Did you ever imagine how your purposes would align then?


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Deep speaking at a community event in Ashburn, Va.

Ash and I graduated the same year, and the South Asian students would have a fair number of events where they could connect. I met Ash in passing, and knew him primarily through friends. As I think about all of the Indian Americans I knew at Georgetown, which is one of the largest law schools in America, I knew we were all going into the world to have an impact, but we were so young it was hard to know where the path would lead. Like Ash, I’m also a teacher who is pursuing elected office. I didn’t know this about him, or myself, when we were in law school.

Working in the corporate law arena, you jumped out to work toward your Ph.D? What was the drive to leave that cushy world?

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The faculty at Loudoun School for the Gifted in Ashburn, Va.

In law school, having thought about building a better world since high school, I decided I wanted to start a school to design and implement ideas to make education better, so that students learned and were inspired. This meant that I knew legal practice was not my life’s work. As a good Indian student and child, however, I didn’t quit law school once I made this decision. I decided to complete my degree and to work at a law firm, so that I would have an idea of how the world really worked before returning to school. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. rather than jumping straight from the law into the classroom, because I wanted to really understand how people learn and think, and how we can create the conditions for deeper learning and better reasoning. It took six years to complete my Ph.D., which was very challenging as the years wore on, but it helped me start from a place of deep understanding as I began the work of reinventing education. It also gave me a chance to patent my idea for an electronic reading environment, which became Actively Learn.

There are many efforts you are currently involved with on the education front. How do you expect to manage these, if you make it to Congress?

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Dr. Deep Sran inside his school, Loudoun School for the Gifted, in Ashburn, Va

At my school, I have a great team of experienced educators who, working together, will build an even better school than the one I have led for almost 10 years. As for Actively Learn, my close friend Jay Goyal has our company from the outset, and I have great confidence it is in good hands. My run for Congress is the next step in my effort to promote educational excellence, economic opportunity, and social justice in America.

In terms of education policy, I have three areas focus: (1) promoting preschool education for poor students, (2) changing our focus in secondary education to make the experience of learning in school beautiful for young adults, and (3) addressing the unsustainable rate of increases in the costs of higher education. As part of that third effort, I’d like to see more effort to make alternatives to college available for high school students and adults looking to adapt to a changing economic landscape, without having to invest in a four-year degree that may or may not lead to a good job.

This run for Congress – what do you see as your strengths and experience that will get you to the finish line as a winner?

I think I’m the best candidate to represent this district, which is why I know I can win this election. Specifically, my experiences as a teacher, lawyer, entrepreneur (founding both a brick and mortar school and an education technology company), and the child of immigrants put me in the perfect position to understand and promote the priorities and values of the people in my district. All of those efforts have been about building a better world, and that’s what we want from our government. Plus, I’m new to politics, so I’m an open-minded, independent thinker who would go to Congress to work with anyone willing to find the best solutions to our most challenging problems. The people in this district are tired of partisan wrangling; they want their representative to do his or her job and to work in public interest. I’m running to restore voters’ and young people’s faith that adults can go to Congress and actually do what’s best for our nation, without worrying about what’s best for their party or for themselves.

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Deep teaching his middle school class on “Informal Reasoning

Why is it important for Indian Americans to run for office? Is our economic contribution good enough?

I think it is critical for Indian Americans to run for office because we occupy a very interesting place in American society: as immigrants and the children of immigrants we understand and experience the struggles of those who do not succeed in the existing economic and political systems, and as a group that has succeeded economically, we understand the concerns of those who do succeed in America. In many ways, we sit at the intersection of the powerful cultural, educational, economic, political, and geopolitical questions and challenges of our time. When I taught in an inner city public school with African American and Latino students, for example, I could listen to them and share my experiences and guidance in a way that built real understanding and connection, because parts of my story did – and just as importantly did not – overlap with theirs, and because there was no legacy of distrust. I think Indian Americans have a central role in confronting the problems of the past and the challenges of the future that divide Americans, and providing leadership that is inclusive and transformative.

Friends, this was an interview with Deep Sran. We wish him the very best with his Congressional run and beyond.

(Special thanks to Shayra Sethi for this interview)


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

Rishi’s pictures for the top header are available at

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