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On August 11, 2020, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made history by announcing California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate for the upcoming election. Harris, who is the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, is the first African American woman on a major party ticket and only the fourth woman in US history to run for vice president. She is also the first person of Asian descent to appear on a presidential ticket.
"I have the great honor to announce that I've picked @KamalaHarris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country's finest public servants — as my running mate," Mr. Biden wrote in a tweet announcing his decision.
The eldest of two children, Harris was born in Oakland, California, on October 20, 1964, to Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher from India, and Donald Harris, an economist from Jamaica. Her parents, who met at UC Berkeley, were both involved in the active civil rights movement on campus and often took the young girl along in a stroller. Though they separated when Harris was seven, her mother, with whom she and her sister lived, embraced both the South Asian and African American cultures.
"My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters," Harris later wrote in her autobiography, "and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women."
Born during an era when school integration was still nascent, Harris recalls being bused from her family's predominantly African-American middle-class neighborhood to a prosperous white district of Berkeley from first to third grade. She says, "I only learned later that we were part of a national experiment in desegregation.… At the time, all I knew was that the big yellow bus was the way I got to school."
Her early exposure to the civil rights movement and personal childhood experiences made Harris determined to dedicate her life to addressing inequality. While pursuing a dual degree in political science and economics at Howard University in Washington, DC, she frequently protested against apartheid in South Africa. She was also part of a 1983 sit-in of an administration building to dissent the expulsion of the student newspaper's editor. Upon graduating from Howard in 1986, Harris returned to the Bay Area to attend the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
She began her law career in 1990 as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California. In 2004, Harris was elected San Francisco's first African American and first female district attorney. After serving two terms, in 2011, the trailblazer chartered more new territory as the state's first woman and African American attorney general. In 2017, Harris began her first term as California's first African American senator. She was also only the second African American woman, after Carol Moseley Braun, to serve in the US senate.
Whether the US public is ready to elect the country's first female vice president will be determined in November. However, for many young girls, just seeing Harris receive the nomination is inspiring. As Mr. Biden succinctly said in his first joint address with Harris on August 12, 2020, "This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities. But today -- today, just maybe, they're seeing themselves for the first time in a new way -- as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents."
Resources: LAtimes.com,abcnewsgo.com, senate.gov, www.independent.co.uk, wikipedia.org