United States Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) made history when she became the first woman to assume the powerful role of the Vice President of the United States after the man who appointed her as running mate, Joe Biden, beat Donald Trump during last week’s 2020 presidential election.
When President-elect Biden assumes office on January 20, 2021, Harris will be the first African American person, first Indian American person, and first daughter of immigrants, to occupy the second-highest public office in the United States.
Vice President-elect Harris’ parents, dad Donald Harris, a Jamaican, and mom Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, an Indian, met in 1962 while attending graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. According to the New York Times, they were both “idealistic foreign graduate students who were swept up in the U.S. civil rights movement” and would become “part of a Black intellectual study group” at UC Berkeley.
Before Berkeley, Donald Harris, now 82, graduated from Jamaica’s University College of the West Indies. After Berkeley, he taught at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and later became “the first Black scholar to receive tenure in Stanford’s economics department,” where he is an emeritus professor of economics, according to the New York Times.
Before UC Berkeley, where she earned a doctorate in nutrition and endocrinology, Shyamala Gopalan Harris had graduated from the University of Delhi in India. She intentionally raised Kamala and her sister Maya, “as strong, Black women,” according to the Vice President-elect. She died in 2009 after a long career in cancer research.
Vice President-elect Harris graduated from Howard University, America’s oldest historically black university, and the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California.
According to the official California state website, “In 2004-2010, Kamala Harris served as the first woman District Attorney in San Francisco’s history, and as the first African American woman and South Asian American woman in California to hold the office.”
Vice President-elect Harris made history again as the first Black woman to serve as attorney general of California. Then she made history again in 2016 as the second African American women elected to the US Senate.
Back in June, Vice President-elect Harris wrote on Instagram:
“My parents marched and shouted in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s because of them and the folks who also took to the streets to fight for justice that I am where I am. They laid the path for me, as only the second Black woman ever elected to the United States Senate. Years later, we are still fighting for justice and to confront the systematic racism that has plagued our country since its early days. But the power of this movement cannot be denied. Change is possible.”
In her victory speech, delivered in Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday night, Vice President-elect Harris invoked the late Georgia congressman and civil right legend, Rep. John Lewis, who died in July after a six-month battle with cancer.
Vice President-elect Harris paid tribute to her late mother, who “maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment,” but “believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.”
Vice President-elect Harris honored “generations of women — Black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often Prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.”
Vice President-elect Harris suggested that her position as Vice President of the United States will inspire and continue the task of breaking barriers elevated to the next level by Biden who “had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president.
“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.
“And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before. And we will applaud you every step of the way.”
Below is the full text of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s victory speech:
Congressman John Lewis, before his passing, wrote:
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act.”
And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, to guard it and never take it for granted. And protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. There is joy in it, and there is progress.
Because “We the People” have the power to build a better future. And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake, and the world watching, you ushered in a new day for America.
To our campaign staff and volunteers, this extraordinary team: thank you for bringing more people than ever before into the democratic process and for making this victory possible.
To the poll workers and election officials across our country who have worked tirelessly to make sure every vote is counted: our nation owes you a debt of gratitude as you have protected the integrity of our democracy.
And to the American people who make up our beautiful country: thank you for turning out in record numbers to make your voices heard.
I know times have been challenging, especially the last several months. The grief, sorrow, and pain. The worries and the struggles. But we’ve also witnessed your courage, your resilience, and the generosity of your spirit.
For four years, you marched and organized for equality and justice, for our lives, and for our planet. And then, you voted. You delivered a clear message. You chose hope, unity, decency, science, and, yes, truth. You chose Joe Biden as the next president of the United States of America.
Joe is a healer. A uniter. A tested and steady hand. A person whose own experience of loss gives him a sense of purpose that will help us, as a nation, reclaim our own sense of purpose. And a man with a big heart who loves with abandon. It’s his love for Jill, who will be an incredible first lady. It’s his love for Hunter, Ashley, his grandchildren, and the entire Biden family. And while I first knew Joe as vice president, I really got to know him as the father who loved Beau, my dear friend, who we remember here today.
To my husband Doug, our children Cole and Ella, my sister Maya, and our whole family — I love you all more than I can express. We are so grateful to Joe and Jill for welcoming our family into theirs on this incredible journey.
And to the woman most responsible for my presence here today — my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts. When she came here from India at the age of 19, maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible.
So, I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often Prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.
All the women who worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century: 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now, in 2020, with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard. Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision — to see what can be unburdened by what has been — I stand on their shoulders.
And what a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president.
But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.
And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before. And we will applaud you every step of the way.
To the American people:
No matter who you voted for, I will strive to be the vice president that Joe was to President Obama — loyal, honest, and prepared, waking up every day thinking of you and your families.
Because now is when the real work begins.
The hard work. The necessary work. The good work.
The essential work to save lives and beat this pandemic.
To rebuild our economy so it works for working people.
To root out systemic racism in our justice system and society.
To combat the climate crisis.
To unite our country and heal the soul of our nation.
The road ahead will not be easy.
But America is ready. And so are Joe and I.
We have elected a president who represents the best in us. A leader the world will respect and our children can look up to. A commander in chief who will respect our troops and keep our country safe. And a president for all Americans.
It is now my great honor to introduce the president-elect of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, photographer, activist, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. Obert is the founder and editor of The Zimbabwean Progressive and The Canadian Progressive, both of which are independent political blogs dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented journalism situated right at the intersection of politics, technology and human rights. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad