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The first but not the last

The first but not the last

By Dear Molly

The US will soon make history, welcoming in its first female vice president, but the woman who will take up the second highest position of political office is more than familiar with shattering the glass ceiling.

Kamala Harris has forged a career on breaking down race and gender barriers, drawing on the self-belief instilled in her by her mother.

Since completing her law degree, she has gone on to become the first black person to serve as attorney-general in California, the second black woman to be elected to the US senate, and will be the first black person to serve as vice-president of the Unites States.

Producing strong women

With ties to a culture that she once noted “worships goddesses” and “produces strong women”, Harris comes from an immigrant background.

Her mother arrived in the US from India aged 19 and went on to become a cancer researcher. Her father hailed from Jamaica and was an economist.

Harris has publicly credited her mother for the self-belief that has catapulted on her such a ground-breaking political trajectory.

In an interview with CNN, she explained her mother used to tell her: "Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you're not the last."

The buses of Berkeley

From the outset, Harris has lived the race divide of modern America. As a five-year-old embarking on her first day of kindergarten in 1969, she was part of only the second class in her neighbourhood to integrate their public schools.

Each day she would board a bus from the predominantly black area of western Berkeley in California and travel across town to a more affluent (and white) Berkeley neighbourhood.

It was an experience that shaped her ambition, and one of the key reasons she entered both law then politics.

“Had someone else been there, I may not have become a US Senator,” she Tweeted in 2018. “I know the impact one Justice can have.”

Political rise

As the ABC explains, after finishing law school, Harris quickly rose through the ranks of California’s legal system, serving as district attorney for San Francisco, and then attorney-general of California.

In the same election that saw Trump sweep to power in 2016, she was elected into national office.

There, she quickly made a name for herself as part of the Senate Judicial Committee, where her sharp questioning was known to rattle opponents.

It came as little surprise when she announced her intention to run for President in 2019 and was later named as Joe Biden’s running mate.

A message to women

Debate might continue over whether current US President Donald Trump will leave the White House willingly, but in her first speech after the Democrats’ victory was called, Harris had a strong message for women.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," she told the jubilant crowd, paying tribute to her mother and the generations  of “women, black women … Asian, white, Latina, Native American women” before her.

"Throughout our nation's history, [women] have paved the way for this moment tonight," she said.

"To the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message — dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they have never seen it before.”

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