News / USA

Profile: Harmeet Dhillon, Sikh American, Republican Leader

Profile: Harmeet Dhilloni
|| 0:00:00
X
David Byrd
November 13, 2012 2:23 AM
Harmeet Dhillon is a Indian-American who lives in San Francisco.

Profile: Harmeet Dhillon

David Byrd
— ​Harmeet Dhillon was born in Chandigarh, India, the daughter of a Sikh physician and the granddaughter of a four-star general in the Indian Air Force.  Now she's making her mark as the head of San Francisco, California's Republican Party. 

While personally a social conservative, Dhillon has taken some controversial stands - she believes that government should not interfere in personal decisions - including gay marraige and abortion.

Northern India to America's deep South
 
Though Harmeet was born in India, she did not stay there long – her family moved first to London and then to the United States so her father could finish his training as an orthopedic surgeon. Dhillon started her schooling in New York City, during her father’s residency. 
 
Shortly thereafter, they moved to the small, southern town of Smithfield, North Carolina, where there were very few Asians, and even fewer Sikhs. Some of her father’s colleagues were starting a medical practice and the opportunity was too good for her father to pass up.
 
Harmeet says the cultural change took some getting used to.
 
“So a lot of immigrants looking to have a life that was sort of a self-starter, your own business, and a balanced life as opposed to living in a city, chose some of those rural areas to bring services to places where, like where I grew up, they didn’t have an orthopedic surgeon in the entire county,” Dhillon said.
 
“There were whites and there were blacks and they lived in different parts of town and there really weren’t many people of different backgrounds,” Dhillon said.
 
“But, I was six almost seven years old at the time and so, you know, when you’re a kid you kind of roll with the punches and you don’t really analyze things too carefully. But we definitely suffered some discrimination during the years we lived in that small town,” she added.
 
Early graduation
 
Dhillon says she found refuge in her studies.  She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, graduating at age 16.  Her mother also made sure Harmeet and her brother went back to India each summer to learn about the Sikh religion, and to maintain ties with her grandparents.
 
Harmeet enrolled in Dartmouth College, where she edited the conservative Dartmouth Review. During her time as editor, she also got a taste of winning a legal victory. Her actions caught the attention of the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes.

“I was featured in a story concerning a previous brouhaha that had occurred where the previous editor had been suspended indefinitely from school for essentially publishing a story that was critical of a music professor,” Dhillon said. “Litigation ensued – which was the subject of the 60 Minutes piece – and we ultimately prevailed.”
 
Marriage, Abuse, and Rebirth
 
Shortly after she earned her degree in classics, Harmeet entered an arranged marriage. That relationship ended when her first husband abused her.
 
“I graduated from Dartmouth and got married a week after graduation to a doctor from India who had been introduced to me by my family and our marriage was arranged so I didn’t meet him before we got married,” Dhillon said.
 
“And he seemed like a good solid candidate and unfortunately it did not go that well. I was a victim of domestic violence and managed to leave the marriage after a year and went to law school two weeks after I left my husband,” Harmeet added.
 
Dhillon received her law degree from the University of Virginia and later married an orthodox Sikh physician.  But the couple’s high-pressure careers on different coasts ended the marriage in 2003.
 
“We were married for almost 10 years, but both of us had very high-flying careers and lived in different countries from each other at times, or different coasts and unfortunately it didn’t work out over time,” Dhillon said.
 
After returning briefly to North Carolina to help her mother battle breast cancer, Harmeet moved to San Francisco and started her own law firm there in 2006. She also discovered politics. Dhillon became the head of the San Francisco Republican Party in January of 2011.
 
Diverse viewpoints

Harmeet Dhillon when she was appointed the San Francisco Republican Party Chair.Harmeet Dhillon when she was appointed the San Francisco Republican Party Chair.
x
Harmeet Dhillon when she was appointed the San Francisco Republican Party Chair.
Harmeet Dhillon when she was appointed the San Francisco Republican Party Chair.
While personally a social conservative, Dhillon says she does not believe in mixing politics and religion.
 
“I happen to be personally very conservative socially,” she said. “I would never have an abortion and my religion does not recognize gay marriage.  What I believe though is that the government should not interfere in most private choices by individuals,” Dhillon added.

“I also don’t think the government should be taking a position on promoting particular religious values.  I think that the idea that a social contract between a pair of consenting adults should be governed by religious themes and religious concerns, I think that’s anathema to a secular society such as we have,” Dhillon said.
 
The Caravan
 
Inside her office on San Francisco’s Post Street, Harmeet Dhillon has a tapestry that features several women on horseback.  There is one man at the head of the caravan, but Dhillon says that doesn’t necessarily mean the women are following him.
 
“Well I think what you’re seeing is a snapshot of a caravan so it could very well some women leading a bunch of men that are just not in the picture,” she said. 
 
“And I think you have to look at life that way.  At any given point in time a snapshot will give you a certain perspective but you never get the full picture without looking further,” Dhillon added. 
 
Harmeet Dhillon says she would encourage other women to follow their dreams, even if it means making difficult – and painful – choices.
 
“It takes courage to make those choices that go against the grain, but I have made both types of choices in my life and the most rewarding ones have always been the ones where I followed my own heart,” Dhillon said.
 
Harmeet Dhillon’s next challenge comes in November - she is running against long-time Democratic politician Mark Leno for a seat in the California State Senate.​

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid