Addressing the nation Saturday night as the first woman of color ever elected to the vice presidency, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) made clear she understood the weight her win would carry for future generations.
“Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and 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've never seen it before,” she said.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said.
She also praised supporters for working relentlessly throughout Donald Trump's presidency to ensure this day would come.
“For four years, you marched and organized for our lives, for our planet, then you voted. You chose hope, unity, decency, science, and, yes truth,” she said.
Invoking the late congressman John Lewis, she said, “‘Democracy is not a state. It is an act.’ America’s democracy is not guaranteed. Protecting our democracy takes struggle, 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 our very democracy on the line, with soul of America at stake, with the world watching, you ushered in a new day for America.”
Harris, a senator from Oakland, California, is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants and the first child of immigrants to become vice president. She attended Howard University and is also the first person from a historically Black college to occupy the White House.
Alongside her political ancestors, Harris invoked her family, thanking her husband and stepchildren. She appeared to briefly grow emotional while revealing how much her victory would mean to her late mother.
“My mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts. when she came here from India at the age of 19, she didn't imagine this moment, but she believed so deeply in America where a moment like this is possible,” she said.
“I am thinking about her and about the generations of women,” she continued. “Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women women who paved the way to tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all.”
She saluted Black women, in particular, as “too often overlooked but so often proven they are the backbone of our democracy.”
Like Biden, whom she described as a “healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand” she promised to unite the country. “America is ready. And so are Joe and I,” she said.
Her speech took on added significance in light of Trump’s repeated attacks on her while on the campaign trail. In August, he called her “not competent” and suggested his daughter, Ivanka, would be a more suitable candidate for the White House. Trump and many of his GOP allies have also mocked her by going out of their way to mispronounce her name, which Harris dismissed as “childish” and “predictable.”
Though she did not name Trump by name in her speech, she appeared to draw contrasts between Biden and the sitting president while noting that the president-elect would be “a leader the world will respect, and our children will look up to. A commander in chief who will protect our troops and keep our country safe.”