BALTIMORE — History will be made not once but multiple times this week in Annapolis as a new executive is sworn in.
For the first time in Maryland’s 234-year history, all of the state’s top constitutional officers will be either black or women, and one of those leaders is incoming Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller.
When Miller took the stage with Wes Moore on election night to celebrate their unprecedented victory, her life story flashed before her.
An immigrant from India, Miller recalls coming to America in the 1970s. She was seven years old.
“And I look into the airport and I see a sea of people there and I’m like, wow, they’re all waiting for my dad and me. That is so cool. I think I’ll like this country,” Mueller recalled. “And then I got really excited because I thought they were going to throw confetti to keep welcoming us and it turned out it wasn’t confetti, it was snow.”
Upstate New York became home to her parents and two siblings, a brother and sister. Her father was an IBM engineer. He was the first to emigrate to the United States.
“He came here as a student. He is a mechanical engineer. So he came here and did his masters and worked on his PhD. And then he brought the whole family with him. But as students, the salaries aren’t that high, he couldn’t afford to bring us all at once,” Miller said. “So first came my mother and my brother, then my oldest sister, and I came last in 1972. All the time I was in India, my grandmother raised me and so I called her mom.”
One of the first challenges for the family was learning the language of the new country.
“My mother was trying to learn English, to write, and we’re all trying to figure it all out. I remember watching Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street a lot,” she said.
Miller became a US citizen in her 30s and began volunteering during the election, which brought her unexpected attention. People around her urged her to run for office.
“When a spot opened up to run for Maryland state delegate in 2010, some of the activists came up to me and said, hey, we’d love to see you run for office. And I listened very politely. I said “Thank you. Thanks, but no thanks,” Miller said. “So I hung up. And there my husband and I had a heart to heart talk. He said why would you say that? I said, ‘Cause I’m going to lose’ and he said, ‘What if you win?'”
Her husband eventually convinced her to run, and she won. Miller served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2010 to 2018. Miller later ran for Congress but lost. When three blacks running for governor in the United States lost their races in 2018, she called it “disappointing.”
Little did Miller know that just four years later, she would be on a historical map with Wes Moore.
“There are still moments when I wake up and have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. In fact, on election night, after we heard and celebrated all the results, I turned around and said to my husband, ‘I’m afraid to go to sleep because I’m afraid that when I wake up I’ll find out that it was all just a dream ‘” Miller said while getting emotional.
Miller becomes Maryland’s first lieutenant governor, a woman of color and the first South Asian woman in that role in US history.
Both Miller and Governor-elect Wes Moore — whose mother is Jamaican — are telling young people the opportunities are endless.
“I really hope we can let them know that when they grow up they can be whoever they want to be and that they should never feel uncomfortable in their own skin,” Miller said.