Washington (US): Kamala Harris, who took oath on Wednesday as the first woman, the first Indian-American, and the first African-American US Vice President, has broken many glass ceilings in her career.
She was the first Indian-American to serve as a US senator and the first woman of color to have been elected district attorney of San Francisco. When she was elected Attorney General of California in 2010, she was the first woman and first African-American to hold the post.
A leader who made her way up through her determination and hard work, she began her career in the 1990s at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in the city of Oakland.
Her mother Shyamala Gopalan emigrated from Tamil Nadu and was a cancer researcher. Her father, a Jamaican, taught at Stanford University.
Harris studied political science and economics at Howard University and pursued law from Hastings College.
In her first speech as Vice President-elect, Harris remembered her mother.
“When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in America where a moment like this is possible,” Harris said.
Harris said she might be the first woman vice president but she will not be the last.
“So I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way to tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all. Including the Black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often proven they are the backbone of our democracy,” Harris said.
Her election as Vice-President is of great significance to Indians, particularly the diaspora in the US, and is a reflection of the success of the community and the respect it has attained.
As Senator, Harris was a member of key legislative committees including the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.
A US-based policy tracker has said that Harris has been one of the busier senators when it comes to introducing congressional legislation. “Her 54 bills introduced in 2019 tied for 19th-most among all 100 senators, while her 52 bills introduced in 2017-18 put her in the top third among senators,” the report by GovTrack said.
On the policy front, her priorities have been criminal justice reform and racial justice legislation. She has supported legalized same-sex-marriage and has called for a ban on assault weapons in the US.
Harris had announced that she was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and during a primary debate had an exchange with fellow candidate Joe Biden over his opposition to school busing in the seventies and eighties.
She later dropped out of the race and was picked by Biden as his running mate in August last year for the presidential election.
Her memoir ‘The Truths We Hold: An American Journey’ was published in 2019.
Biden and Harris won one of the most contentious elections in US history with the incumbent Donald Trump unwilling to concede defeat.
On November 7 (local time), the US media projected that Biden would become the 46th President of the United States and Harris 49th Vice President after the duo clinched Pennsylvania to take them beyond the 270 electoral college votes necessary to clinch the election.
The electoral college certified the results in December – 306 electoral votes for Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence received 232 votes.
But the certification came after unprecedented violence in Washington and the storming of Capitol Hill by Trump supporters.
The US President was later banned from social media platforms.
The US Supreme Court had dismissed lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of presidential elections.
Sabrina Singh, then Press Secretary to Senator Harris and now Deputy Press Secretary to Vice President-elect, had said in an interview to ANI that if elected Biden-Harris administration will advance the relationship between India and the United States.
Biden and Harris are faced with several challenges including that posed by the rise of China, climate change, and the adverse impact of COVID-19 that has killed over 400,000 people in the US besides causing a recession.
Harris will create history and evoke smiles across continents as she takes the oath of office on Wednesday.