Kamala Harris has changed the face of American politics as the first woman, person of color, and multiracial global citizen to take on the role as Vice President of the United States of America.
Making history in the United States on November 7th, 2020, Harris shattered ceilings that have kept men — most of them white — entrenched at the highest levels of American politics ever since the very founding of the country in 1776.
Harris is not only the first woman, or person of color, ever to take on the role as Vice President, but she is also the first African American and South Asian American global citizen to lead in the position.
Kamala has spent her life fighting injustice. A rising star in Democratic politics, Harris previously served as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general before being was sworn in as a United States Senator for California in 2017 as the second African American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history. Since, she has also served on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.
Born to first-generation immigrant parents— a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris always embraced her multicultural upbringing, attending both a Hindu temple and singing in the choir at a black Baptist church during her childhood.
“My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last,'” Harris said during a lecture at Spelman College, recalling the motto that’s guided her life. “That’s why breaking those barriers is worth it. As much as anything else, it is also to create that path for those who will come after us.”
Growing up in Oakland, Kamala had a stroller-eye view of the Civil Rights movement. Through the example of courageous leaders like Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, and Charles Hamilton Houston, Kamala learned the kind of character it requires to stand up to the powerful and resolved to spend her life advocating for those who could not defend themselves.
Harris also spent her high school years in Montreal, Canada – a city known as one of the world’s epicenters of ethnic and cultural diversity, where people of all backgrounds live in harmony and celebrate equal opportunity. She then went on to earning an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings, before beginning her noteworthy career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
“Imperfect though we may be, I believe we are a great country,” Harris said during her first speech on the Senate floor. “And part of what makes us great are our democratic institutions that protect our fundamental ideals—freedom of religion and the rule of law, protection from discrimination based on national origin, freedom of the press, and a 200-year history as a nation built by immigrants.”
Kamala— which translates to “lotus flower” in Sanskrit— has publicly acknowledged her diverse heritage throughout the campaign, including a callout to her “chitthis,” a Tamil word for a maternal aunt, in her first speech as Biden’s running mate. Through her powerful stand in embracing cultural diversity, Americans will not only begin to see new doors opening for immigrants, but they will also witness their true potential as a force for good in their nation.
But Harris’ position of enormous privilege and power will not only usher more Black and Indian women and people of color into politics. It will also offer an unprecedented opportunity to push the country closer to justice and equality for marginalized communities.
“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,” affirms the Vice President elect, during her speech in Delaware after the 2020 elections were called.
Update: Harris officially took office as the 49th Vice President of the USA on January 20th, 2021.