Former APAICS Fellow (2016-2017) Adi Sathi is the Chief of Staff at the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) and has been in this role since 2017. Previously, he worked as the National Director of Asian Pacific American Engagement at the Republican National Committee (RNC) from 2017-2019 and was an Advisor on multiple campaigns in swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Missouri.
During the 2016 election cycle, Adi was elected statewide to serve a two-year term as Vice Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and was part of the team that delivered the first Republican Presidential victory in the state since 1988 by a narrow 10,704 vote margin. In April 2018, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Adi to complete a four-year term as a State Commissioner on the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (MAPAAC) housed in the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Adi received both his B.A. and M.S.W. from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and in June 2019 he was selected to the 65th Annual National Security Seminar (NSS) Program at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
In his free time, Adi is Varsity Wrestling Coach for Washington Latin PCS High School. He also serves on the 15-person Young Professional Board of So Others Might Eat (SOME), which is a community-based service organization that exists to help and support residents of Washington, D.C., experiencing homelessness and poverty. Adi enjoys cheering on Michigan sports teams, working out, and binge watching Netflix shows.
APAICS asked Adi 13 questions about his life and career.
APAICS: Tell us about your experience as a National Political Operative for the last few years.
AS: After completing the APAICS Fellowship, I served as the National Director of Asian Pacific American Engagement at the Republican National Committee from 2017 to 2019 under the leadership of RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. I am also currently the Chief of Staff to the Young Republican National Federation and have been in this role since 2017. Between these two positions, I had the opportunity to travel to 23 states and host or support over 100 political events all throughout the country. I worked with numerous Congressional, Senatorial, and Gubernatorial campaigns. Some of the campaigns I worked with included deployments in 2018 to Missouri for now U.S. Senator Josh Hawley and to Mississippi for the runoff election for U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith as well as to North Carolina’s 9th District in 2019 for the special election for now U.S. Congressman Dan Bishop. I also had the opportunity to lead a Young Professional Republican Delegation trip to Taiwan. As we enter 2020, Republican political operatives are gearing up for President Trump’s reelection campaign including the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am glad to have had the chance to get to know many of them over the last few years and I look forward to working with them throughout the excitement of 2020.
APAICS: Favorite Quote?
AS: “The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
– John Adams, POTUS (1797-1801)
APAICS: You worked on the Hill as an APAICS Legislative Fellow in Senator Orrin G. Hatch’s office. How has that shaped your career in public service?
AS: As an APAICS Legislative Fellow in the Office of Senator Orrin G. Hatch, I learned a great deal about the legislative process and had the unique opportunity to work for a legendary U.S. Senator. While in the office, I was able to serve on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) and travel to China on a Congressional Staff Delegation trip with the U.S.-Asia Institute to discuss trade policy and financial services. Working for such a senior Senator like Sen. Hatch, who served as both the President Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, made it very easy to make many new friends in Washington, D.C. To this day, the friends I met on Capitol Hill continue to have a large impact on my career in public service.
APAICS: Favorite vacation spot?
AS: I am torn between Hyderabad, India, to see my Grandma and Tel Aviv, Israel, for the beautiful weather and beaches.
APAICS: What about the differences between working at the RNC vs. working on a Congressional campaign?
AS: At the national level, you are traveling all over the country and paying attention to 1000 things at the same time. If you are working on a Congressional campaign, you are going to focus on the state you are in and on the district you are hoping to represent. It allows you to develop a stronger relationship with the candidate you are working for and potentially join them on the official side of government after the campaign is over if they are elected or reelected. Many people leave Capitol Hill to join a campaign in hopes that they can come back in a more senior role.
APAICS: What is your morning routine to get you ready for the day?
AS: First and foremost, I always make my bed—it gives me a sense of accomplishment to start the day. Next, I do 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 50 body squats (unless I go to the gym). Then, I brush my teeth, hop in the shower, and figure out what tie/pocket square combo to wear. Got to look fresh on the way out the door. Finally, I use the quiet before the storm to wish my friends a Happy Birthday via call, text, or social media. Politics takes a lot of time away from your social life, so I find this to be a nice way to stay in touch with the people I care about.
APAICS: Favorite political book?
AS: This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich. It gives a detailed exposé into the inner workings of the Washington, D.C. political class.
APAICS: Favorite boba flavor (or favorite drink!)?
AS: I have liked boba tea since I was a student at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. It was available on every other block back in those days. I always liked either the standard black or the Taro tea. In terms of my favorite overall drink, nothing beats my mom’s homemade Chai.
APAICS: What is it like being an AAPI in politics?
AS: It’s exciting in many ways! Like most AAPIs, I come from a family that is not politically connected or independently wealthy. Many of the things that I do within politics are considered uncharted territory for people in the community. The challenge of navigating the political world makes every day unique and different. I hope to help other AAPI’s also pursue a career in politics. Sometimes people still ask me if I will eventually go back to pursuing medical school. Short answer: Sorry mom.
APAICS: More and more AAPIs are becoming more politically involved, what would be your advice to someone trying to pursue a career in public service?
AS: Slow and steady usually wins the race, but fortune favors the bold.
The first step is to figure out if you are interested in politics at the state or the federal level. At the state level, I would encourage all people to get involved with their local parties and volunteer for campaigns in their area. At the national level, I would suggest an internship/fellowship on Capitol Hill. APAICS is a good starting point!
APAICS: Who is your favorite Indian-American entertainer?
AS: My favorite Indian-Canadian entertainer as of recently is rapper Nav. He is the first rapper of Indian origin to hit the mainstream and I’m proud to see him out here doing his thing. I feel the same way about Indian-British actor Dev Patel in Hollywood after Slumdog Millionaire and Lion. The verdict is still out for Indian-American entertainers in my book. I guess I will have to go with Kal Penn since I dressed up as Kumar from Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay for Halloween last year with 2019-2020 APAICS Fellow Nick Johns (he was obviously Harold).
APAICS: What AAPI events do you look forward to every year?
AS: I always look forward to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s annual event at the DOT offices in Navy Yard. You never know what politically famous people you will run into at the event. Obviously, I love the APAICS Gala (aka DC Asian Prom) and all the activities surrounding that big event. It usually happens to fall on the week of my birthday, so I feel like I am celebrating in style every year!
APAICS: In your job, you make media appearances or talk to journalists. How do you prepare yourself for interviews?
AS: Most of the TV hits I have done thus far have been on the fly. I get the call just an hour or two before and usually prep for a few minutes on the way to the studio. I try to read some talking points and write a few things down, but you don’t always know what they will ask. Knowing the names of people involved with the topic always goes a long way for the sake of credibility. I try to pay attention to the news every day to stay on top of such details. Some advice I would give to anyone who wants to pursue opportunities on television: stay calm, cool and collected and keep your eye on the red dot.