By Bianca Dias-Halpert
Das Williams represents the 3rd generation of Indos born and raised in the USA. Born in Kenai, Alaska, he grew up in California since the age of 1. It is clear he has carved a pathway in politics, but let’s examine what influenced him to get there.
When asked how his Indo background has influenced his life decisions he stated, “Oma and Opa were significant role models”. He said their value system of frugality, family, environmentalism (long before it became a buzz word) and non-materialistic way of life had a huge impact on him. His Opa was community oriented having served as a deacon and pastor. His Oma dedicated her life to the family. He said the most profound influence is “when I am experiencing something negative or feel that I have gotten the wrong end of a deal, I am reminded of my Opa’s incredible life’s journey having been a POW in WWII in a prison camp in Makassar and then Nagasaki from 1942-1946, yet he always remains to be a generous loving person”.
As is customary amongst Indos, discussion of our food is always included. When asked what his favorite Indo food is he responds with “Lumpia !”. Das recalls a story of the early days when a traveling van full of Dutch and Indonesian ingredients and grocery items was driven by an Indo named Timmerman. He would make his rounds and sell these items out of his van.
Das believes that his Indo heritage is the defining factor in initiating and reaching out to the community to make a difference. He had an opportunity to spend some time in South Africa as a political organizer for Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. He said the mixed population there made him feel right at home as they regarded him as a South Afrikaner.
The three most important things in Das’s life are his partner Jonnie, who has a multicultural background herself and has been his support throughout his public service, his family, which also extends to his political crew and lastly, public service. He said “it is more than just being a politician and at the ground level it is showing empathy, solve social problems and working together in a concerted effort”.
Das holds a Master’s degree from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science. He serves on the Santa Barbara City Council and has been active in a wide variety of community causes.
After a year of campaigning Das won the primary on June 8, 2010 for 35th Assembly District of California. He won by 61.4%. Look forward to his campaign for the general election in the fall of 2010.