Published September 15, 2022
The call came for Srikrithi Krishnan early in the week.
It was from the office of President Satish K. Tripathi, where she had worked as an undergraduate. A student would be introducing Vice President Kamala Harris during her visit to UB on Wednesday, the office explained.
Would she be interested?
“Oh my God, I was so excited,” said Srikrithi, a first-year graduate student majoring in public health and business administration. “Initially, I was like ‘Is this real life? Is this happening?’”
So, Srikrithi — who goes by Sri (pronounced Shree) — set aside her studies for the day and got started on her introduction early Tuesday.
Harris would be arriving at UB the next day to speak about how regions like Buffalo are poised to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the new law aimed at curbing inflation by reducing the deficit, lowering prescription drug prices and addressing global warming.
Srikrithi, who grew up in Amherst, thought about her own experiences.
As a first-generation American whose parents came from India, Srikrithi chose public health as her major after seeing for herself during family trips to India the negative environmental impacts on public health, poor air and water quality included.
Her dream is to one day create an organization that provides women in medically underserved areas with access to quality health care and a better quality of life.
But Srikrithi also realizes public heath requires a healthy planet. Whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink or the sustainability of our food systems, they all directly impact our health and well-being.
By dinner time on Tuesday, Sri had her introduction roughed out. She ran through the script with her mother, Bhuvana, and father, Krishnan, who periodically stopped her to offer input and edits.
In fact, introducing the vice president happened to be personal for Srikrithi and her family. Her parents and older sister, Srinidhi, had been waiting for their green cards for more than 20 years. They were finally granted permanent residency under the Biden-Harris administration in September of last year.
“You’ve got to thank her,” her father told her.
“I will, I will,” Srikrithi said.
By the time the vice president had arrived at the Center for the Arts on Wednesday, Srikrithi was understandably nervous.
She and several other UB students met privately with Harris about 30 minutes prior to the vice president’s appearance. They talked about the climate and environmental justice.
One by one, officials took the stage to offer their own comments about the new federal legislation, leaving Srikrithi a couple minutes with Harris backstage. She recounted her family’s own story and, on their behalf, thanked the vice president.
Then, it was Srikrithi’s turn to take the stage.
She gave the audience the message she had practiced with her parents the day before and expressed her gratitude that the administration was tackling the climate crisis head-on so that “my generation and future generations can live and thrive in a healthy and sustainable world.”
“With that,” Srikrithi told the audience, “I am honored to introduce someone who has worked throughout their career towards environmental justice: the Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris.”
Music started to play, the audience broke into applause and the vice president stepped onto the stage and hugged Srikrithi.
“Srikrithi, you did such an excellent job,” Harris told her from the stage. “You inspire me. You inspire me, as do all of the students I met this afternoon and, of course, the faculty and the administration, for the work you are doing here.”
Afterward, Srikrithi — her heart still pounding from what had just happened — described how “down to earth and communicative” the vice president was, how willing she was to listen to students and what an experience it was to introduce her.
Now, with her job done, Srikrithi is anxious to get back to her studies.
Srikrithi did an outstanding job as a representative of UB. She was very poised, in control of the moment, and did not appear to be apprehensive at all. Congratulations!
Gail Karen Reino