Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas sat for a fireside chat with US Vice President Kamala Harris last Friday in Washington DC and the two leaders discussed gender equality, climate change, gun control, among a range of other issues being nationally debated in the United States.
Chopra began the conversation by making a personal connection with Harris, saying that both of them are daughters of India in a way.
Chopra is an India-born actor currently sellted in Los Angeles and Harris was born to a mother who migrated from India to the United States. Harriss's father moved to the United States from Jamaica and this makes her the first person of colour and first person with Asian Asian parentage to be the Vice President of the United States — besides being the first woman ever to hold the office.
Harris also touched upon the issue of Ukraine War and the agenda of Joe Biden's presidency and the Democratic Party if they win the Congress in the upcoming midterm elections.
LIVE NOW: Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a conversation with actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the Democratic National Committee Women's Leadership Forum https://t.co/1BrclRDRJv— NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 30, 2022
"I think we're both daughters of India, in a way. You're a proud American-born daughter of an Indian mom and a Jamaican father. I am an Indian born of two physicians as parents and a recent immigrant to this country who totally still believes in the wholehearted, you know, American Dream," said Chopra.
Chopra was invited by the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum last Friday to interview Harris for a fireside chat.
The United States, said Chopra, is regarded as a beacon of hope, freedom, and choice for the whole world.
"And these tenets are being endlessly assaulted right now," she said referring to fiery debates in America and verdicts such as the recent one that removed the federal constitutional protection to abortion.
Chopra also said that after working for over 20 years in films, it was only this year that she got paid equal to her male co-stars.
In her remarks, Harris acknowledged that right now they are living in an unsettled world.
She said, "I've been travelling around the world as Vice President. I've directly talked with 100 world leaders in person or by phone...You look, for example, at Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine. We thought it was pretty well settled —the issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty— and now that is up for some debate, given what's happening there."
While Harris touched upon the Ukraine War, most of the focus of her chat with Chopra was on domestic affairs in the run-up to the midterm elections.
"We look in our own country. We thought, surely with the Voting Rights Act and all that it stood for, we assumed and thought the issue of voting rights in America was settled,” said Harris, invoking a sense of continuity between the unsettled world and her home country the United States.
She added, "Then we had the Shelby v. Holder decision. And then after the 2020 election, when more people voted and more young people voted than ever before, states around our country started systematically and intentionally making it more difficult for people to vote."
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to ensure state and local governments do not pass laws or policies that deny American citizens the equal right to vote based on race. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court swept away a key provision of this landmark civil rights law in Shelby County v Holder.
"We thought a woman's right--a constitutional right--to make decisions about her own body was settled. No longer," said Harris.
The US Supreme Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion.
Agreeing with her, Chopra said, "Absolutely. You're so right. There's so much to navigate right now."
She also touched upon the climate change issue as she acknowledged the relief efforts in hurricane-hit Florida. She also hailed Biden-Harris administration's climate change agenda.
"Extreme weather conditions like this are becoming more frequent and more severe. And I wanted to acknowledge the administration for passing the biggest climate legislation in history earlier this year because it is a fact that America's leadership sets an example to other major economies around the world, which are truly dragging their feet when it comes to doing their bit," said Chopra, who is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Stressing on adapting to extreme weather conditions, Harris responded, "The crisis is real, and the clock is ticking. And the urgency with which we must act is without any question. On the point that you made about disparities, you know, back when I was the district attorney of San Francisco, I started one of the first environmental justice units of any District Attorney’s office in the country focused on this issue.
"As you have described rightly, it is our lowest income communities and our communities of colour that are most impacted by these extreme conditions and impacted by issues that are not of their own making."
(With PTI inputs)