The election of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris brings several firsts for the office. Harris is the first woman, first African American, first Caribbean American, first Asian American and first graduate of an historically Black college or university to be elected U.S. vice president. When she takes office on Jan. 20, 2021, Harris will be the highest-ranking female elected official in United States history.
President-elect Joe Biden announced on Aug. 11 that Harris would be his running mate. She previously ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination even facing Biden during the debates. However, the two were able to come together to get more votes for any other presidential ticket in history.
“We did it. We did it, Joe. You’re going to be the next president of the United States,” Harris said in a now viral video of her speaking to Biden via cellphone when news broke that they won.
On Saturday, Harris delivered her acceptance speech to the nation. She spoke before Biden at an outdoor drive-in rally in Wilmington, Delaware. During her over 10-minute speech she highlighted the women who came before her and her own historic victory.
“I will be honored to be serving with a fantastic vice president—Kamala Harris—who will make history as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country,” she said. “It’s long overdue, and we’re reminded tonight of all those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America has bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
Biden said Harris’ win is a win for history. Harris’ election comes 100 years after women were granted the right to vote in America.
“Don’t tell me it’s not possible in the United States,” he said. “It’s long overdue. We’re reminded tonight of those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. But once again, America’s bent the arc of the moral universe, more toward justice. Kamala, Doug, like it or not, you’re family. You’ve become an honorary Biden. There’s no way out.”
Harris’ life journey started in her hometown of Oakland, California Her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was 19 years old when she arrived from India. Her father, Donald J. Harris, is from Jamaica. Both were students at University of California at Berkeley.
Growing up in California with her younger sister, Maya, Harris was bused to Berkley as part of a desegregation program for school.
An HBCU graduate, Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she majored in political science and economics. The school’s president, Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement that Harris received the foundation for many of her successes at Howard.
“Senator Kamala Harris has swung her Howard hammer and shattered the proverbial glass ceiling into pieces that will not be put back together,” he said. “In an election that saw more Americans cast a ballot than ever before, a majority of Americans have selected Vice President Biden to be the 46th president and our distinguished alumna Senator Harris to serve as the 49th Vice President of the United States.”
While at Howard, Harris joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the nation’s oldest Black sorority founded in 1908. Recognized by their signature colors of salmon pink and apple green, the sorority led a national voter registration effort. Alpha Kappa Alpha International President Dr. Glenda Glover said Harris’ win is beyond a win for the sorority.
“Little girls, little Black girls, little Asian girls, little Indian girls can see her in this position, and if you can see it, you can be it,” Harris said. “They can see it and say there’s no limit to what we can do.”
Upon graduating from Howard University, Harris attended law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. After law school, she became a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California and later worked for California Assembly speaker Willie Brown followed by serving as an assistant district attorney for San Francisco DA Terence Hallinan.
Harris was elected district attorney of San Francisco in 2003 winning the election in a runoff serving until 2011. She was elected attorney general of California in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
In 2016, Harris ran for U.S. senator for California. She was the second African American woman and the first South Asian American elected to the U.S. Senate.
Harris is married to attorney Douglas Emhoff, who will be the nation’s first Second Gentleman. Emhoff has two children from a previous marriage, Cole and Ella, who affectionately call their stepmother “Momala.”
During her victory speech, Harris vowed to the American people that she plans to be a vice president who will work with everyone to fix the problems facing the nation.
“No matter who you voted for, I will strive to be a vice president like Joe was to President Obama, loyal, honest and prepared, waking up every day thinking of you and your family, 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 epidemic, 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,” she said. “The road ahead will not be easy, but America is ready, and so are Joe and I.”