| California, United States | 21Jan 2017 | Asia Samachar |
President Donald Trump has now taken office as one of the most powerful politicians on planet earth. His route to the White House saw a Sikh woman lawyer saying an ardas (prayer) at the Republican Party Convention in July 2016 that officially named Trump as the party’s presidential candidate.
At that convention in California, on 19 July 2016, lawyer Harmeet Kaur Dhillon was given the honours to say the opening prayer of the convention’s second night session.
She led the convention, mostly made up of white men and women, with the traditional Sikh ardas, beginning with the ‘Tu thakur tum peh ardaas’ couplet from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture.
“Please give us the courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those with whom we disagree, for the greater good of our nation,” she said in the prayer.
Wearing an Escada jacket and draped a silk navy-and-gold scarf over her long hair, Harmeet may have delivered a model ardas for Sikhs should they be called upon to say a prayer before a mixed audience.
Harmeet, 48, is a Republican National Committeewoman from California, one of the three RNC members from the Golden State.
When Harmeet first ran for vice chairwoman of the California GOP, rivals whispered that the Indian-born Sikh would slaughter a goat at the lectern, ran a Los Angeles Times report. On Tuesday night, it noted that Harmeet opened the second night of the Republican National Convention by singing the invocation in Punjabi and then translating it into English.
Born in Chandigarh, India, she emigrated with her parents to England and then to the Bronx, N.Y. Her father, an orthopedic surgeon, soon moved the family to rural Smithfield in central North Carolina.
Dhillon says she was an awkward, chubby child who didn’t fit in at school. “I had two long braids and a funny name and my mother didn’t dress me in fashionable clothes. I was not popular at all,” she was quoted in the report.
The report added that she was raised as a devout Sikh. “I had a very religious upbringing at home. That was very central to my life from day one,” she recalled.
Her parents supported Republicans after they became naturalized U.S. citizens. Their politics were driven in part by her father’s contempt for trial lawyers because of medical malpractice lawsuits.
But they also were formed by turmoil in India in the 1970s, when an insurgency in Punjab led to temple raids and attacks on some Sikhs. Harmeet’s parents hosted fundraisers for Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a conservative with strong views on foreign policy. He, in turn, spoke out against persecution of Sikhs, the report added.
Harmeet attended Dartmouth College, where she wrote for the college’s conservative paper, the Dartmouth Review, and ultimately was named editor. She went to law school at the University of Virginia and worked in New York City and London before she settled in San Francisco.
Her career in law began with a clerkship with the Paul V. Niemeyer of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Her practice in New York, London, and the San Francisco Bay Area has focused on federal and state commercial litigation and arbitration, according to a note at her company website. It added that her practice had a particular emphasis on unfair competition/trade secret misappropriation, intellectual property (including trademark litigation and internet torts), complex contractual disputes, and First Amendment litigation (including defamation, trade libel, right of publicity, and anti-SLAPP motions).
In one interview with San Francisco Daily Journal (24 Oct 2014), Harmeet said she doesn’t compete on price and doesn’t pursue work based on volume. The firm charges $550 per hour for her time and between $275 and $425 for associates. Projected revenue for the firm was roughly $1.5 million for that year.
She is also a celebrated leader in the Sikh community, having taken up the cause of representing Sikhs who were persecuted across the country after 9/11 for wearing turbans that perpetrators mistakenly associated with terrorists, according to the same report.
“In her role as the vice chair of the Republican Party of California, she is the highest ranking Sikh party official in the country,” said Amar Shergill, a fellow Sikh civil rights attorney and founder of the South Asian Bar Association of Sacramento. “I can’t think of a firm led by a South Asian attorney that is her peer.”
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