Kamala D. Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States on 20th January 2021, stepping into a historic moment in time as the highest-ranking female politician in American history. She truly has emerged as the woman of many firsts! Not only Harris is the first woman of colour to do so, but she is also the first Asian and Black female Vice President of the United States. Being the first woman to achieve something seems to come to her inherently. Harris became the first South Asian-American senator in US history in 2017, and the second Senate-elected African-American woman and the first female vice president of colour of the United States. In this blog, we will take a look at the life and education of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris’ motto comes from her mother: “You may be the first, but make sure you’re not the last.”
Born in Oakland, California on 20th October 1964, Kamala Harris is the eldest of two children born to Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian cancer researcher whose work on the gene for the progesterone receptor inspired advances in research in breast cancer, and Donald Harris, a Jamaican economist who had met each other while pursuing graduate degrees at UC Berkeley and had bonded over a mutual interest for the civil rights movement that was prominent on campus. Even before the formal education of Kamala Harris begun, her parents used to take her along to rallies in a stroller after she was born.
In Sanskrit, the name Kamala means “lotus” and it is also another term for Goddess Lakshmi who is known as the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Harris’ mother chose this name for her as a tribute to her Indian ancestry. As a girl, Harris, upheld both her South Asian and Jamaican identities by going to both a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple. Harris later went on to write in her autobiography, “My mother knew very well that she was raising two black daughters, and she was determined to ensure that we would evolve into confident, proud black women”.
As a girl, she visited India often and was deeply inspired by her maternal grandparents. Her grandfather was an officer of the government who fought for Indian independence and, her grandmother was a social worker who went to villages to teach about the importance of birth control to rural and poor women.
“I’m not trying to restructure society, I’m just trying to take care of the issues that wake people up in the middle of the night.” – Kamala Harris
Education of Kamala Harris
The education of Kamala Harris began from the next three years when she was bused to Thousand Oaks Elementary School, for her Kindergarten. She used to play Cat’s Cradle with her peers on the bus that travelled from her mainly black, a lower-middle-class suburb to her school in a booming white district which had formerly been 95% white and became 40% black after the school integration program came into effect.
After her mom got a teaching position at McGill University and a job as a cancer researcher at the Jewish General Hospital, Harris attended Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, a French-speaking Elementary School, and then Westmount High School in Quebec, graduating in 1981.
Harris studied at Howard University, the prestigious Black College in Washington, D.C., after high school. The undergraduate years in the education of Kamala Harris concluded as she graduated with a degree in Political Science and Economics.
She headed back to California availing the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) to get admission into the University of California, Hastings College of Law. She was also the president of her division in the campus of the Black Law Students Association while still at UC Hastings. In 1989, she earned a Juris Doctor degree and was accredited to the California Bar in June 1990. The education of Kamala Harris, especially in the field of Political Science and Law, helped her emerge as a leading voice on racial inequality and justice.
“I was raised that, when you see a problem, you don’t complain about it, you go and do something about it.” – Kamala Harris
Key Career Highlights
- After completing her education, Kamala Harris began her career as the Deputy for the District Attorney in Alameda County as the Director of the Community and Neighborhood Division, where she concentrated in investigating child abuse prosecutions.
- There are many life lessons that a prospective lawyer or a budding student can learn from the career and education of Kamala Harris. She was San Francisco’s first African American female to be appointed District Attorney and served from 2004 to 2010. From 2011 to 2017, she served as California’s attorney general, becoming the first female American, the first woman of colour, and the first Bi-racial American to do so.
- For California homeowners who were affected by the mortgage crisis, Kamala Harris fought for them on their behalf and also won a $25 billion payout, but Harris declined to sue the owner of the OneWest Bank, Steven Mnuchin for foreclosure violations in 2013.
- Kamala Harris also ran for the President of the USA for Democratic Nomination in December 2019. Harris terminated her campaign citing a lack of funds to proceed.
- Harris gives credit to her late mother for inspiring her to find solutions to problems. Harris co-wrote Smart on Crime (2009 with Joan O’C. Hamilton). This novel was considered an ideal topic for dealing with the topic of criminal recidivism and creating awareness about it. Kamala Harris also wrote a memoir called “The Truths We Hold: An American Adventure” and a children’s novel which is called “Superheroes Are Everywhere.”
- Kamala Harris also created history for the first time on 20th of January 2021 when she was sworn in as Joe Biden’s vice president, becoming the first woman, the first Black American and the first Asian American to hold the second-highest US office.
“What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters.
You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.”
Thus, we hope that this blog on the inspiring life story and education of Kamala Harris helped you explore the amazing journey of the soon-to-be First Woman Vice-President of the United States. Stay tuned to Leverage Edu for more such insightful and inspiring blogs on the international leaders driving the much-needed change in the world! Don’t forget to check out our exclusive reads on top careers, courses & more!