Dilworth Paxson’s Ajay Raju exhorts South Asian diaspora to engage more in American civic life

Seize the “kairotic moment,” the Indian American legal luminary tells UPenn South Asian Leadership Conference.

Cataloging the many blessings and contributions of the South Asian American community in a wide-ranging interview for an Ivy League symposium, Indian-born law firm leader, venture capitalist and philanthropist Ajay Raju exhorted his fellow diaspora members to engage more fully in the civic life of their adopted nation.

“One of the good things about this country is that if you truly do believe in public service, nobody’s stopping you,” Raju told University of Pennsylvania Wharton School professor Saikat Chaudhuri during a discussion recorded in the downtown Philadelphia offices of his law firm Dilworth Paxson, which the Indian American has helmed since 2014 as CEO and Chairman.

The impetus for the tête-à-tête between Raju and Chaudhuri, who also serves as Executive Director of the Mack Institute for Innovation Management, was the inaugural South Asian Leadership Conference, an initiative offered for South Asian UPenn students to pool resources and promote cultural unity in the professional world. As the embodiment of a South Asian immigrant success story, Raju had been invited to share his experiences and insights with Conference attendees.

Reflecting on the challenges of introducing innovation into an environment hidebound by legacy and history, Raju spoke of the need for any ambitious individual to recognize and seize her “kairotic moment”, that “moment within the continuum of time that is pregnant with opportunity.”

Raju’s civic efforts, pursued through the various initiatives of his charitable Raju Foundation, reflect a conviction that his beloved hometown of Philadelphia is in the midst of its own kairotic moment. Outlining the vision of the Germination Project, a Raju Foundation-backed program to capture the long-term talent of Philadelphia’s brightest high school students, the lawyer described a “50-year bet” with a goal to cultivate a new generation of leaders to commit their energy and skills to the future of the region.

Deflecting an inquiry from Chaudhuri as to his personal political future, Raju admitted, “I have the stench of a politician,” but, he emphasized, “you don’t need a badge to be a public servant.”

Watch the full interview:

South Asian Leadership Forum from XTRAS on Vimeo.

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