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Vice President Kamala Harris broke the barrier that has kept men at the top of American power for more than two centuries when she was sworn in to the second-highest office in the country.

Harris was sworn in as the nation’s first female vice president, and the first black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the office, in front of the United States Capitol by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The moment was full of history and meaning in more ways than one. She was escorted to the podium by Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, the officer who stood alone with a crowd of Trump supporters as they attempted to breach the Senate floor during the Capitol uprising that sought to overturn the election results. Harris wore clothes by two young emerging black designers: a deep purple dress and coat.

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive on the steps of the United States Capitol for the start of official inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) (AP)

After taking the oath of office, Harris, beaming, hugged her husband, Douglas Emhoff, and gave President-elect Joe Biden a first blow.

His rise is historic in any context, another time when a stubborn boundary will crumble, expanding the idea of ​​what is possible in American politics. But it is particularly significant because Harris will take office at a time of profound consequences, with Americans grappling with the role of institutional racism and facing a pandemic that has disproportionately devastated black and brown communities.

Those close to Harris say she will bring an important, and often missing, perspective to the debates about how to overcome the many obstacles facing the incoming administration.

“In many people’s lives, we experience a segregated America,” said Lateefah Simon, a civil rights advocate and longtime friend and trainee of Harris. “Now he will have a black woman who will enter the White House not as a guest but as second in command of the free world.”

Harris, the son of immigrants, stepmother of two and the wife of a Jew, “carries an intersectional story of so many Americans who are never seen or heard.”

Harris, 56, rises to the vice presidency just four years after her first visit to Washington as a senator from California, where she previously served as San Francisco attorney general and district attorney. She had hoped to work with a White House led by Hillary Clinton, but President Donald Trump’s victory quickly stirred the nation’s capital and set the stage for the rise of a new class of Democratic stars.

After Harris’s presidential bid failed, her rise continued when Joe Biden chose her as his running mate last August. Harris had been a close friend of Beau Biden, Joe Biden’s eldest son, and a former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of cancer.

Opening activities included nods to his historical role and personal history.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor while her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the United States Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, January 20, 2021.
Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor while her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the United States Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (AP)

Harris used two Bibles to take the oath, one belonging to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights icon whom Harris often cites as inspiration, and Regina Shelton, who helped raise Harris during his childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. Harris’s alma mater Howard University’s drum line joined the presidential escort.

To mark the occasion, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the nation’s oldest black sorority that Harris joined at Howard University, declared Sister Kamala D. Harris Day on Wednesday.

“This event will certainly be a momentous occasion that will go down in the annals of our archives as one of the best days the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha could have imagined,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, International President and CEO of the sorority. . office.

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive on the steps of the United States Capitol for the start of official inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) (AP)

He will address the nation later in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic choice as the nation endures one of its most divided stretches since the Civil War.

Harris has often reflected on his rise through politics by recalling the lessons of his mother, who taught him to take up a larger cause and overcome adversity.

“I was raised not to hear ‘no.’ Let me be clear about it. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, the possibilities are huge. Whatever you want to do, you can do it,’ “he recalled during a” CBS Sunday Morning “interview that aired on Sunday.” No, I was raised to understand that many People will tell you, ‘It’s impossible,’ but don’t listen. ‘”

Harris’s oath carries more symbolic weight than that of any vice president in modern times.

President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive for the 59th presidential inauguration at the United States Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan.20, 2021.
President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive for the 59th presidential inauguration at the United States Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan.20, 2021. (AP)

She will broaden the definition of who has power in American politics, said Martha S. Jones, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality. for all.”

People who want to understand Harris and connect with her will have to learn about what it means to graduate from a historically black college and university rather than an Ivy League school. They will have to understand Harris traditions, such as the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Jones said.

“People will have to adapt to her instead of her adapting to them,” Jones said.

His election to the vice presidency should be just the beginning of placing black women in leadership positions, Jones said, particularly after the role black women played in organizing and voter turnout in the November elections.

“We will all learn what happens to the kinds of abilities and perceptions of black women in politics when those abilities and perceptions are allowed to lead,” Jones said.


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