HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania– Ash Khare came to America from India with two bachelor’s degrees, $8 in his pocket and a dream — the American dream.
This year, he has a chance to realize that dream in an important way. A chance he could have never imagined growing up as a poor child in India. A chance he is proud of, he says with tears welling up in his eyes.
Ash Khare is one of the 538 people who make up the Electoral College who today will cast their votes for president.
Khare arrived in America in 1969 on a scholarship to Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He was 21 years old. At the time, India was a closed economy and Khare was a young man with drive and smarts, but no connections.
“In India at that time to succeed and grow in a profession you had to be connected. I had no connections. We grew up in real poverty,” he says. “I even had to take a loan to buy my airplane ticket to America.”
Here, he learned he also needed more than a degree. He says he quickly realized the need to understand the culture, the correct way of speaking and how things were done.
“I learned that by working in a grocery store for three years where I met all kinds of different people, some rich, some poor,” Khare says.
After pushing past the initial struggles of poverty and loneliness that many immigrants face, he is a successful engineer and businesses owner.
He’s also a serious player in the Pennsylvania Republican Party after embracing American politics with the gusto of a new convert in the first decades of his American life.
“I’m a political junkie,” Khare says proudly.
A date decades in the making
Being an elector is one of Ash Khare’s crowning achievements as an American. He gravitated toward the GOP in the 80’s and will proudly vote to elect Donald J. Trump, a fellow Republican, to the nation’s highest office.
Khare knows how rare of a chance this is — it’s been nearly 30 years since a Republican presidential candidate won the swing state.
Though he’s long been a player in helping elect Republicans to state office, this feels a bit different, he says.
“I was a nobody that came from a third world country,” Khare says. He paused, choking back tears as he finished his thought. “And I am making a difference. It’s not by a handout. It’s by hard work and loyalty. That’s all.”
Khare has made it very clear that he is going to do exactly what he said he would do: vote for the person his electorate voted for — Donald Trump.
Electors face pleas, threats
Despite his pride, Khare is paying a price for his role in picking the next president. A price he didn’t expect nor predict.
Within hours 24 hours of Trump’s victory, Khare says his wife called to tell him he suddenly had 5,000 emails. Within a week, he had tens of thousands of emails. Then came the bags of mail. Then came the phone calls.
Messages were pouring in from all over his state, the country and the world. They all had one simple directive: Do not vote for Donald Trump. Some of the missives came in Christmas cards, one came with a picture of a family saying they were afraid of Trump. Most pleaded with him– and a few threatened him — to change his mind.
“This has for the time being turned my life upside down. I can’t find my bills in all the mail. I can’t find emails that pertain to my business. Even my rural post office had to designate someone specifically to deliver my mail because there is simply too much of it,” Khare said.
He hauled in three suitcases filled with a few days’ worth of mail. They contained 3,300 letters.
“What am I supposed to do with all of these?” Khare said.
He’s read some, kept some and thrown some out. A new batch arrives every day. He’s handed a few over to law enforcement, which led to a plainclothes officer being assigned to protect him. While he recognizes the rights of people to try to persuade him to change his vote, he will not be swayed.
“I am doing my duty,” Khare said. “I am for Mr. Trump. I am for his agenda. I am totally excited. The way he his picking his cabinet, the way he is doing his thing. I believe the greatest days of this country are yet to come. And I am glad I am alive to be able to see it.” He says he is sure the 19 other Pennsylvania electors will vote for Trump too.
Khare says the only difference he foresees between himself and his fellow electors is that when he’s sworn in as a member of the Electoral College at the Pennsylvania House chambers, he will not be putting his hand on the Bible. As a Hindu, he says his hand will rest on the Bhagavad Gita — holy scriptures written in Sanskrit that form part of several holy books in Hinduism.
“I was asked what is my holy book. I told them. And they said okay they would bring one. This is America.”