The year 2020 has been historic in more ways than one. Despite being a year that many people would like to forget, it was also filled with remarkable firsts. It was the first time the US elected a woman to the second-highest position in government. Vice president-elect Kamala Harris made history and has become a bright light in these dark times. Not only is she the first woman vice president, but she is also the first African-American and first Asian-American to occupy this esteemed position.
She shattered the infamous glass ceiling for women by being elected vice-president. More than that, she also broke through the “concrete ceiling” – a term used to describe the obstacles women of color particularly face. She went through it all with positive energy and a smile on her face. Kamala is a beacon of hope for women around the world, as she herself said during her victory speech, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Her early years
Kamala Devi Harris was born in 1964 to immigrant parents, her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris from India, and her father Donald Harris from Jamaica. Both her parents migrated to the United States to study for doctorate degrees at the University of California, Berkeley. This is where they met, got married, started a family, and continued pursuing their own careers. It would be natural to assume, and rightly so, that the environment that Kamala and her sister Maya were exposed to at a young age helped shape who they are today. With both parents being accomplished in their own fields and active in the civil rights movement, it was inevitable that these factors would influence Kamala and Maya in their own career choices.
Kamala has said, “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.”
Her parents divorced in 1971, and Kamala and her sister were mostly raised by their single mother. They moved to Montreal, where Kamala finished high school before going back to the US to study political science and economics at Howard University. She, later on, obtained her law degree from Hastings College.
Her mother Shayamala had a huge impact on Kamala’s life, and she often mentions her even today. In her own words, “There is no title or honor on earth I’ll treasure more than to say I am Shyamala Gopalan Harris’s daughter.” Sadly, her mother passed away from cancer in 2009 and is not here today to see how far her daughter has come. Despite this, Kamala never fails to mention just how much influence her mother had on her life and accomplishments.
A woman of many firsts
Throughout her life and her career, Kamala has been breaking barriers. We all know that she’s about to become the first woman Vice President, but she had many firsts even before she made her presence known on the national stage. She was also the first woman, the first African-American, and the first Asian-American woman to become the attorney general of California. In the Senate, she is the first Indian-American to serve as Senator while also being only the second African-American woman to hold this position. She is also the first Vice President to graduate from a historically black college, Howard University.
Her husband Doug Emhoff also contributes to her string of firsts – he will be the first second gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of a US Vice President. Kamala didn’t set out to become the first in all these things – she accomplished them by following her own path and working hard towards her goals. Something we can all learn from. Kamala serves as an inspiration to women all over the world. She also shows that women can truly be trailblazers in any field.
Her love of cooking
For all her professional accomplishments, Kamala has also become famous for one more thing – her love of cooking. She is a self-professed passionate home cook and has shared a few of her personal recipes on her social media accounts. Recently, she shared a step-by-step recipe of her family’s favorite cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. “During difficult times, I have always turned to cooking,” Kamala has said. Cooking is a source of comfort for her, and this passion started when she was a young child watching her own mother in the kitchen.
“One of the things that I do to relax at the end of the day is I read recipes,” she shared in 2018, something many people can relate to. Now, we can all imagine her flipping through her favorite cookbooks after a long day at work. This open love of cooking is another thing that makes Kamala stand out from other career politicians. Her willingness to share snippets of her personal life with others is a wonderful way she connects to people.
Kamala Harris and the future
The past few years in the US have not been easy, with racial and political divisions growing and becoming more evident in everyday life. Kamala Harris winning as vice president is a much-welcome change and a refreshing breath of fresh air. She serves as an inspiration to both women and people of color everywhere.
We can all learn a lesson or two from Kamala and her journey — the importance of family, the influence of a mother’s love and example, and the greatness you can accomplish when you combine hard work and heart, no matter your circumstances. It will take many years to overcome the negativity and discord that have been sown in the US landscape. However, when there is someone like Kamala Harris helping lead the way to heal these wounds and to create a more equitable and just society, we can allow ourselves to envision and believe in a better future.