Gautam Raghavan, a gay Indian-American who previously served in the Obama administration as a liaison to the LGBTQ and Asian-American communities, has become the highest-ranking LGBTQ member of the White House staff after President Joe Biden elevated him to assistant to the president and director of the Office of Presidential Personnel (PPO).
Raghavan, who has been deputy director of the office since Biden took office earlier this year, is replacing Catherine Russell, who is moving to UNICEF, the United Nations agency focused on providing humanitarian aid to children across the globe, to become its executive director.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Russell’s appointment to UNICEF Friday. Soon after, the Biden White House announced Raghavan’s elevation to director of PPO.
Biden expressed his confidence in Raghavan’s abilities, noting he had worked in tandem with Russell in his previous role, allowing for a “seamless transition that will enable us to continue building a federal workforce that is efficient, effective, dependable, and diverse.”
Prior to becoming deputy of PPO, Raghavan served as deputy head of presidential appointments for the Biden transition team. He previously served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as an adviser to the Biden Foundation, and as vice president of policy for the Gill Foundation, a philanthropic foundation dedicated to achieving equality for all LGBTQ+ people.
Raghavan served in the Obama administration as a liaison to both the LGBTQ and Asian American & Pacific Islander communities in the White House Office of Public Engagement. He also served as Acting White House Liaison for the U.S. Department of Defense, and as Outreach Lead for the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Working Group.
A first-generation immigrant, Raghavan was born in India, raised in Seattle, and graduated from Stanford University. He now lives with his husband and their daughter in Washington, D.C.
Raghavan is also the editor of West Wingers: Stories from the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House, a book containing a collection of stories from former Obama administration staffers regarding their time working for the White House, the challenges they faced, and their personal journeys and reflections on major issues.
In 2018, as the book was being released, Raghavan told Metro Weekly he intentionally picked staffers with personal connections to their stories — including his own chapter, which focuses on his coming out story and marriage to his husband, which closely tracked the gradual growth of public support for same-sex nuptials.
“The idea was not to just find people who had a great anecdote, but to find people who were in some way deeply enmeshed in the story that they had to tell,” he said.
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