As a woman, a Sri Lankan immigrant, one of the chief architects of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, and wife of the CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, Krishanti Vignarajah is the antithesis of the current administration. But that’s a major part of the reason why she announced her candidacy for governor of Maryland earlier this month.
“I am running for Governor because I am worried my daughter and all children in Maryland will not have the same opportunities my parents gave me when they brought our family here when I was a baby girl,” Vignarajah declares on the front page of her website. “The deficit in leadership from our current Governor could not come at a worse time.”
She adds, “I hope Marylanders will agree this time the best man for the job is a woman.”
As Upworthy points out,, Vignarajah has never held public office before, but she has an enviable history in politics. Prior to her role as policy director for Mrs. Obama, the Yale-educated new mom served as a senior adviser to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
The Hill reports five other Democrats are already vying for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Maryland, but none of them have Vignarajah’s unique perspective on the world. As governor, she says that she will “focus on what matters most — improving schools, increasing wages, reducing crime, treating drug addiction, alleviating traffic, investing in infrastructure, and protecting our treasured environment.”
Vignarajah is very open about how her early life has impacted the way she sees our country and the vision she has for its future. In a recent interview with Cosmopolitan, the 37-year-old spoke candidly about how her parents fled Sri Lanka when she was just 9 months old as the country descended into a civil war.
“One of the questions that gnaws [at] me, given my personal story, is what if instead of coming to this country in 1980, my family had to flee Sri Lanka today? Would they even be let in?” she asked, alluding to the current administration’s anti-immigrant policies. “President Trump, he can demonize immigrants to our country, but the truth for me is there’s a family just like mine out there who applied, and they waited their turn, and they want to work hard and pay their taxes and raise a family and live a decent and safe life here. Just as immigrants before them have for generations.”
“I know that that story is not only personal to my family, but it’s fundamental to the American experience,” she added. “To me, that is the American dream.”
Aside from her past, part of what influenced Vignarajah to run for Governor of Maryland is the lack of female representation in her state’s government. As she told Cosmopolitan, no woman currently holds an elected federal or statewide office in Maryland. “While we have made significant progress in many ways, there are clearly some serious shortcomings,” she explained, adding, “If President Obama and the First Lady taught me anything, it was how a fresh perspective and new generation of leadership can change the world.”
A study from earlier this year found a correlation between political representation and quality of life for women. In other words, states with little or no female representation in the state legislature tended to score lower on factors like equal pay and women’s reproductive rights, while states with women in government received higher marks on such factors. Maryland was actually amongst the top performers.
However, if there’s a silver lining to the fact that women are still woefully underrepresented at every level of American government, it’s that more women have expressed interest in running for office than ever before. EMILY’s List, an organization which helps pro-choice Democratic women get elected to public office, has heard from 11,000 women so far this year.
And even though she’s only been in the race for less than a month, Vignarajah already has advice for other women running for office. “Don’t doubt yourself,” she told Cosmo. As the aspiring governor says on her website, “We need a new generation of leadership that will make progress at home, while standing up to a White House that threatens the very values that unite and define us.” (Courtesy plus.com)