Akash Chougule is the director of policy for Americans for Prosperity and a graduate of the 2012 Koch Associate Program Online (formerly Liberty@Work).
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in a typical small New England town called East Greenwich, Rhode Island. It turned 340 years old this year and sits right on the water. I was fortunate to attend great schools in a loving community, which ingrained in me the importance of both of those things. Every person needs them to succeed.
What got you interested in your career field?
My dad is an immigrant with an unending love of America and the American Dream, so I grew up knowing its importance. Unfortunately, growing up in Rhode Island and watching what was unfolding in Washington while I was in college, I saw government at every level obstructing opportunity, so I decided to do something about it. Those things still motivate me every day.
Has a book ever changed your life?
Dr. Arthur Brooks’ The Road to Freedom. It is lesser known than books on similar subjects, and it came out a couple of years before The Conservative Heart, which many people saw last year, but it changed the way I approach policy debates and policy conversations. It also made me better about considering and communicating how public policy and reforms impact the least fortunate among us.
What place most challenged your thinking?
Definitely the first time I went to India as a teenager. The abject poverty in parts of India is absolutely horrifying, but in those same places you see people who are happy and productive because they have strong families and they appreciate the dignity of work. India has also developed faster than just about anywhere else in the world over the past 30 or so years, and it is thanks almost entirely to the expansion of free-market principles, free trade, the rule of law, and other values we hold dear.
Why did you decide to participate in a Charles Koch Institute educational program?
First, because it was a prerequisite to being hired for my first job in the free-market movement, but also because I was semi-aware of how little I knew about all of this. The Charles Koch Institute was an incubator for the development of those skills and knowledge.
What was most memorable about the Institute’s educational programs?
I was never really involved with political groups in college, so the first day of Liberty@Work was literally the first time in my life I had been in a room of like-minded people. I continue to keep in touch with the network of people I met there.
What’s something your friends find surprising about you?
Hopefully not much at this point, but maybe just how different my life is outside of work. The high-pressure professional environment is the exact opposite of time spent with close friends, and I treat them accordingly.
What’s one piece of advice you’ve taken to heart?
I’ve learned over time (mostly from family) to be humble and not complain, and to spread that to others.
What do you want to be known for?
I want to be well liked by people from all walks of life and known as a “happy warrior” who made a significant, long-lasting impact in expanding opportunity and the American Dream.