Tim Roemer was first elected to serve Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives, and served through 2003. In May, 2009, President Obama nominated Mr. Roemer to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to India, a role he filled until April, 2011.
Harvard Political Review: What was your inspiration for entering politics?
Tim Roemer: Two things captivated me and sent me like a rocket ship toward politics. The first was the unconditional love and support of my parents. The second was a young senator by the name of Robert F. Kennedy. I’ll never forget in fifth grade class when the Sister asked for a volunteer to run a mock presidential campaign for Bobby Kennedy. My hand shot up so quickly that I think I dislocated my shoulder.
HPR: What inspired you to serve as Ambassador to India, and what experiences did you gain during your time in Congress to help you in the role?
TR: A very articulate, eloquent and convincing person asked me to do the job: President Obama. As ambassador, you work on many different issues, but one of the most compelling and consuming ones is national security. My time on the Intelligence Committee and other security commissions helped prepare me for building the relationship that we have constructed in the last couple years.
TR: I believe that since the late 1980s, Republican and Democratic administrations have not developed a compelling narrative for the American people so that they understand the importance of world trade and how exporting creates jobs and growth opportunities in America. This is a win-win situation because, as you build this relationship economically, the middle class gets more opportunities to prosper and poor people are able to escape poverty.
HPR: How troubling an issue is corruption to India’s ability of succeeding as a democracy?
TR: Corruption doesn’t just affect the wealthy and high-level government people, it affects the common men and women. The middle class is getting fed up with it and they want changes. To be fair to India, she is only 60 years old and, when our democracy was just 60, we had a myriad of problems ourselves. We’ve come a long way in the last 100 years to cure those ills, to move in a better direction. India’s in the midst of that, and you’ve seen democracy at work in recent weeks with the anti-corruption campaign.
HPR: What do you see as the greatest risks in the security relationship between Pakistan and India?
TR: This is an issue of great concern to America and its national security policy. To address the problem we must first develop constructive, positive, bilateral relationships with both countries. Secondly, we must grow our strategic relationship with India and work to deflect the possibility of that next Mumbai attack by establishing ways to share more intelligence with India. We are working with India where they desire on border issues, technology, and helping to establish a new national counterterrorism center.
HPR: Are you considering ever running for elected office again?
TR: I’ve got four young kids and I’m spending more time trying to get my kids elected to the student council than I am trying to get myself elected to anything. But, when you’re at the Kennedy School…it puts the fire back in your belly to stay involved and maybe run again someday.
Harleen Gambhir ’14 is a Contributing Writer. This interview has been condensed and edited.