What is an important thing that we Americans can do together that we can’t do alone?
I think there’s very little we can do alone. We can’t take care of each other alone. We can’t get over our problematic stories about ourselves alone. We can’t lead alone.
What about your country, state, or community makes you proud? How do you think government interacts with that?
This country and every state and community I’ve ever lived in, predominately communities of color, have a legacy of striving for justice inside, outside, and in concert with government.
What do you think it means to be a good citizen?
Good citizens feel responsible for what’s happening to everyone in your neighborhood, in your state, and in your country. But you can’t just feel responsible, you have to take steps to put your values into practice.
What one word describes our government as it is?
What one word do you wish described our government?
If you could run a government program or agency what would it be? What would you want to accomplish there?
I’d love to work with tech to get communities more involved with using digital tools to do what they are best at.
What thing that government does do you think would surprise most Americans?
When you go to weather.com, it’s all government data. We all rely on this websites for weather reports, and that’s all government funding. Some Americans don’t know that government fixes the potholes. They’d have to do it themselves without government.
What is your first memory of an interaction with government?
I grew up in Bangladesh, although I was born in the United States. From a very young age, there were always worker strikes and political party strikes on the streets. My first interaction with government is people raising their voices very loud to move the government. And voting. I’m the first generation after independence. Bangladesh has a very high voter turnout because it’s a new country and we don’t take it for granted.
What was your most recent government interaction?
I met with people at the White House about the use of data for accountability and policing. We have police chiefs around the country who want to innovate around data accountability, but the White House meetings wouldn’t have happened but for important protests around the country about Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. Those protests were important government interactions. They set the drumbeat for government action.
What is your favorite thing that government does?
Government has a role in creating equity across communities. If we don’t have governance that creates equity, we have survival of the fittest mentality, which I saw during periods of anarchy in Bangladesh. That’s only justice for the rich, male, and strong. Government ensures justice for everyone.
Who is your government hero who is not an elected official?
Leslie Knope – although she’s a fictional government official from Parks and Recreation. She represents those everyday heroes who choose jobs like overseeing parks because they want to help people live more meaningful lives. And having a swing set means that for people. They guide their lives on ensuring that everybody has the things that they need. They’re the most important people in our government.
ImagineGov: If government could be anything, what would it be?
Our government would be so easy to interact with. Although, truthfully, our government is getting involved in making systems more accessible and smooth for its people. Truthfully, we have people doing this right now. We have people at the United States Digital Services clearing the Veterans Administration backlog. We have people making websites and apps to make interactions with government let you live out your values.
Why is the work of Indivisible so important?
Fundamentally, most people in this country don’t believe that we shouldn’t have a government. It’s human nature for us to have faith in governance. People have lost faith in this government and the way that it operates because it seems as if it’s mostly corporate and non-governmental interests. When you create opportunities for people to have good interactions with the government that are truly participatory, they can live out their values. We need to have more complex conversations with people. Martin Luther King’s speech is a call for government accountability and asking people to show up. It’s time to develop a new vocabulary and language around the role of government – and that’s what Indivisible will do.
Name someone whose answers to these questions you would like to see.
Kendrick Lamar. And everyone, really.
An Interview with Indivisible.