Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected Vice President of the United States

Harris is the first woman of color to be nominated and elected for national office by a major political party


Photo courtesy of U.S. Senate Historical Office

Sen. Harris announced she would run for vice president alongside Joe Biden on Aug. 11, 2020, becoming the first African American woman to do so. 

Harris, being the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be elected to national office, represents a big step in moving toward a more diverse America. During the general election race, Harris put up a great fight with strong values.  According to FiveThirtyEight’s, Harris got higher marks for her performance and her policies than Mike Pence in the vice presidential debate. 

Harris’ father, who was Jamacian, taught at Stanford University and her mother, the daughter of Indian Diplomat, was a cancer researcher. Her younger sister, Maya, later became a public policy advocate. After Kamala studied political science and economics (1986) at Howard University, she earned a law degree (1989) from Hastings College.

Harris previously worked as a deputy district attorney (1990-1998) in Oakland, earning a reputation for toughness as she prosecuted cases against gang violence, drug trafficking and sexual abuse. Harris rose through the ranks, becoming district attorney in 2004.  

Harris was the first African American woman to serve as California’s attorney general, which led to a powerful campaign for vice president. While in the eyes of some people, Sen. Harris is making history, others believe her running was a ploy of the Democratic party to get votes from people of color. 

Harris announced she was seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. She was seen as one of the leading contestants, and she drew particular attention when, in an earlier debate, she had an industrious exchange with fellow candidate Joe Biden over his opposition to school busing in the 1970’s and 80’s. By September, 2019, her campaign was in serious trouble, and in December, she dropped out of the race. 

Harris still maintained a high profile while being a leading advocate for social justice after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Her efforts silenced many who criticized her in her position of attorney general. As racial injustice became more of a major issue, Democrats called on Biden as their nominee and he later selected Kamala as his running mate. 

Renata Gluzman, an Oak Park Republican citizen feels that the candidates did not provide information during the vice presidential debate that could be useful to the public moving forward. She believes that citizens should have received more information since there are many questions regarding what will happen to move to the next step for COVID-19. 

“I don’t believe that either candidate provided informative support to their running mates nor the American public. We are still left with unanswered questions that affect our current quality of life in this country and going forward,” Gluzman said. 

Harris refers to herself as a “progressive prosecutor” and believes she was able to become as strong as she is today due to her mother and school. Harris earned a law degree at the University of California Hastings College of Law and later became an attorney general in 2017. According to an article by The Hindu, Harris believes her true inspiration behind who she is today is her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, an Indian-American immigrant, activist and breast cancer researcher. 

According to Gluzman, Harris being the first woman of color to be nominated as vice president might have an effect on voters’ perspectives. However, Harris’ past could also affect the decisions voters make. 

“She has been very reputation-focused and less about what’s wrong and right. I’m afraid she will push more control over the population through the pandemic avenue,” Oak Park independent shopper Erica Small said. 

Some citizens believe that now that Harris is vice president, she might change things that were put into action by President Trump.

“I think it’s amazing to finally have some representation in the White House. I mean, everyone says how they come to this country for diversity and all, so I think it’s great to finally have that in the White House to run this country. I do believe it is long overdue, but you have to start somewhere,” Hailey Jones, senior at Oak Park High School said. 

Overall, the impact of Harris and what she will do for this country remains to be seen. 

“I feel Kamala will be an inspiration for many girls and stands up for what is right. I think she is a huge step in the right direction for this country to go [in terms of] standing up for equality and basic human rights,” Jones said.