“Things happen to me that don’t usually happen to those my age, like coming in contact with the rich and famous,” 20-year-old Naresh Vissa said in a recent interview from his home in Texas.
Personally meeting and talking to President Barack Obama is at the top of that list. And he’s also met other famous politicians, both Democrats and Republican. It all happened at the Houston Astrodome in 2005 during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“I went there along with a friend to volunteer my help,” Naresh said. He admits to lying about his age to get inside since he was two years shy of the 18-year-old requirement for volunteers. Once inside, he and his friend were assigned to what the government called controlling the perimeter of sheltered operations. Translation: babysitting children aged two through 13.
“We played board games and trashcan basketball to keep them occupied,” he said. “At 7:30 a.m. everyone woke up to swarms of people walking around followed by hordes of television cameras.” The cause of the excitement was the presence of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“I shook Bill’s hand,” he said, describing it as “a perfect handshake, soft but firm.”
He said Hillary joked and talked with them and smiled when he told her she’d be the first woman president.
Later Naresh said he saw “an old man walking around” and realized it was former President George H.W. Bush, father of the more recent President Bush. Naresh describes him as “a very nice man” who “cracked a lot of jokes” during their 10-minute conversation. Naresh even had his picture taken with Bush.
But his biggest thrill came a little later when Barack Obama showed up and thanked him for his service.
“It was 2005. Hardly anybody knew him. Bill and Hillary stole the show that day. But I knew who Obama was because I watched him making his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, and I had read part of his book, Dreams From My Father.” Naresh said Obama was excited that he had read the book and had a big smile on his face.
“I told him to run for President in 2016,” he said.
Naresh also got a picture of himself with Obama and posted it on his Facebook account. He said a lot of his friends used to ask, “Who’s Obama?” But then this was back in 2005. “It took until mid-2007 before people knew. I’ve had numerous hits on my account since then,” he said.
Although Naresh was thrilled to meet him and cast his vote for Obama in 2008, currently Naresh is, in his words, “not too happy with his policies.”
“When friends tell Naresh he is unusually lucky, he agrees to a point, especially in one area. ‘My luck was coming into this world,’ he said, and he means it literally.”
Another famous person Naresh met is Jesse Jackson whom he spotted at the Houston Airport in August of 2006. “I was waiting for my Dad to pick me up. I wasn’t sure it was Jesse Jackson at first but then I saw him again, and a small crowd was taking his picture so I knew it was him. I went up to him and I got a picture too,” he said.
When friends tell Naresh he is unusually lucky, he agrees to a point, especially in one area.
“My luck was coming into this world,” he said, and he means it literally.
His parents, who are immigrants from India, planned on having only two children. After his brother Karthik was born, his mother had a miscarriage. And that allowed Naresh the “luck” of becoming “the second kid.”
He’ll also acknowledge a “lucky” coincidence that resulted in his having two financial talk shows on a CNN radio station at such a young age. But he insists the radio shows didn’t just happen. He first did several internships where he met or knew of many people in the business.
When he was 16, he heard a speaker who gave a power point presentation on sales, and afterward he asked the speaker a few questions. Obviously impressed, the man gave him a business card and offered him a summer job. Naresh followed through, working two summers and learning things that jump-started his career.
“That presentation planted the seed. You need to sell yourself and your product. Sales is an integral part of being a successful business person,” he said, noting that 90 percent of CEOs in America started out as salesmen.
After working a summer internship with the business radio network last year, Naresh wound up with an offer to work 10 hours a week while he was in college and happily accepted. But he left when his supervisor asked him to go with him to CNN radio where he was launching a new show.
In his job there, he produces two CNN financial talk radio shows out of Dallas, handling “everything behind the scenes – marketing, public relations, booking guests, doing customer service.”
“The opportunity was awesome. I made great contacts at CNN and with the people I get for the shows,” he said.
This summer he even got to co-host one of his shows. It’s especially exciting to Naresh because Dallas is a top-five market in the nation.
“It all goes back to believing that your first job is marketing and selling yourself,” he said, citing a favorite quote by Thomas Jefferson: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”
Naresh said he is always proactive, doing his research, making the calls, sending the e-mails, doing whatever needs to be done to promote himself and his needs.
“I think it’s great to have two shows on CNN radio at my age, but it wasn’t really luck. I’d earned the trust of my boss while I worked for him,” he said.
Naresh, born and raised in Houston, is a student in Syracuse University honors program, majoring in broadcast journalism and finance and accounting. He attributes much of his success to his parents who gave him a good life and spent a lot of time with him and his brother, but who also insisted on excellence. In the private schools he attended, Naresh was involved in both sports and academics and was required to do well in everything. He even came out as the top speller in spelling bees.
“My parents were very strict. I had to win trophies and get good grades. I was constantly being yelled at, but they ingrained discipline in me,” he said. “It’s instinctive for me to be my best.”
And doing his best seems to bring “luck” to Naresh Vissa wherever he goes.
Thank you Naresh, for sharing your Story with us.
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