Kamala Harris accepted her place in history on Saturday night with a speech honoring the women who she said “paved the way for this moment tonight”, when the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants would stand before the nation as the vice-president-elect of the United States. Harris in a symbolism-heavy victory speech, told girls she would not be the last.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” she said to cheers and honks from the crowd gathered in socially distanced cars.
“Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Harris vowed to fight to “root out systematic racism” but, like Biden, made a broad appeal to unity, saying that Americans “have elected a president who represents the best in us.”
With her ascension to the nation’s second highest office, Harris, 56, will become the first woman and the first woman of color to be elected vice president, a reality that shaped her speech and brought tears to the eyes of many women and girls watching from the hoods of their cars in the parking lot of a convention center in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Protecting our democracy takes struggle,” Harris said. “It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it. And there is progress. Because we, the people, have the power to build a better future.”
With Harris poised to become the highest-ranking woman in the history of American government, this milestone marks the extraordinary arc of a political career that has broken racial and gender barriers at nearly every turn. As a prosecutor, she rose to become the first Black woman attorney general of California. When she was elected to the Senate in 2016, she became only the second Black woman in history to serve in the chamber.
She opened immediately by hailing John Lewis, the civil rights icon turned congressman who died in July — and whose state of Georgia startled pundits with its sharp swing in Tuesday’s election toward their Democratic Party.
Harris also paid tribute to her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who emigrated from India when she was 19 and died in 2009.
“Maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment,” Harris said.
“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.”