Living the Dream
Kamala Harris is in the House
By Angelia D. McGowan
Kamala D. Harris has set the tone for generations of women: the American Dream of doing anything you want— including becoming president or vice president of the United States of America — is possible. During her victory speech on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, the vice president-elect said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”
The arsenal of firsts that she brings to fight the good fight to the White House extends far beyond gender. She is the first graduate of one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Howard University, to be elected to this office. As a member of the 300,000-member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., she is the first and only member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council to be elected to this office. As the daughter of an Indian-American mother, she will be the first person of South Asian descent to hold this office. As the daughter of a Jamaican-American father, she will be the first African American to hold this position.
Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was an Indian-American immigrant, activist and breast cancer researcher, who taught Harris early on to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. She fortified her upbringing, steeped in the civil rights movement, with a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
After earning a law degree, Harris forged a career fighting injustice, including two terms as the district attorney of the city and county of San Francisco, and nearly two terms as district attorney for the state of California. During the latter role, she won a $25 billion settlement for California homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis, defended the state’s landmark climate change law, protected the Affordable Care Act, and prosecuted transnational gangs that trafficked in guns, drugs and people. As a senator representing the state, she introduced and co-sponsored bills to raise wages for working people, support veterans and military families, reform the broken criminal justice system, and address the epidemic of substance abuse.
During 2020, which has been marked by the COVID-19 global pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, Harris co-sponsored a bill to remove all statues of individuals, who voluntarily served the Confederate State of America, from display in the Capitol of the United States. She also co-sponsored a bill to establish or expand programs to improve health equity regarding COVID-19 and reduce or eliminate inequities in the prevalence and health outcomes of COVID-19.
Other women who have run on major tickets for the vice presidency have fallen short of fulfilling that goal. But, the very fact that they ran kept the vision of a woman in office alive. In 2008, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the Republican vice presidential nominee. In 1984, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat, was the first woman to be on a major party ticket. Not to be forgotten among the women who aimed for the highest office in the nation is Shirley Chisholm, who ran for president in 1972.
On Inauguration Day 2021, the United States of America will own a history that includes an African American man who served as president for two terms and an African American and South Asian American woman who has officially kicked off her position as vice president. She is more than ready according to New York-based political strategist Chet Whye, Jr.
“She is tough as nails, smart as hell and deeply compassionate,” said Whye, the ex-chairman of the Denver Public Safety Review Commission and former award-winning Denver Post political columnist. “I supported Kamala’s 2020 run for the presidency and intended to build teams in New York to deploy to battleground states much as I had done for Barack Obama.”
Harris, married to Doug Emhoff, pulled out of the race in December 2019, and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, who would later ask her to join his presidential ticket.
Lifelong Democrat and activist Anna Jo Garcia Haynes is “thrilled. She will make such a difference. She will be great and have the interests of a lot of people.”
Like a lot of Harris’ supporters during this global pandemic, Haynes, 86, was home when Harris delivered her speech. But the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame inductee “yelled and smiled just the same as if she were in a group. It was wonderful. I felt like I was there.
“Dreams do come true every once in a while,” added Haynes, who has served as a consultant to the White House Conference on Children and Youth and as a member of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. “It feels good to have this win.”
Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler explained, “This election creates an explicit inspiration for women, people of color and anyone who needs to hear that ‘anything is possible.’ Vice President-elect Harris represents the face of and the voice of possibilities, possibilities even in the darkest of times. The nation can see, clearly, that even racial injustice can’t harness the power of Black women…the power of women…the power of persistence.”
Tyler is chief catalyst and founder of the Equity Project LLC, an organization designed to support organizations and communities in building diversity. She served on the Colorado host committee of one of Harris’ fundraisers when she was running for president. The author of “White People Really Love Salad,” published by Mascot Books, said that she and Harris later connected on her book. “She loved the title and the power of connecting our childhood stories to our understanding of equity, inclusion and diversity.”
During Harris’ victory speech Tyler “was on cloud 9”and “couldn’t sit.” She recalls rushing home from doing a presentation and just “stood in awe and pride for the duration of her speech. She reminded me that winning was just the beginning of the process. Crafting good outcomes would be the true prize. I believe that with all my heart.”
Whye, who was in Time Square when Harris delivered her speech, projects that “this amazing partnership of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is just what we need now to pull America out of the abyss.”
You Ushered In A New Day For America
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.
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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 4 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.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
November 7, 2020