Few American journeys can be said to be as remarkable as the one Kamala Harris has been on.
During a time in our history where divisions remain stark, the former senator has broken a glass ceiling that many believed would never happen: a woman has been elected into the White House, just one step down from the presidency.
Madame Vice President will have her work cut out for her with all the crises she and President Joe Biden have to deal with. But as amazing as her achievement is – not only being the first woman but the first Black and Indian-American woman in the office – her accomplishments on the way to the White House are just as historic.
On October 20, 1964, Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland, California, to Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian biologist, and Donald Harris, an economics professor at Stanford University. By age seven, her parents were divorced, and Kamala was raised by a single mom in Berkeley, CA. At age twelve, she moved with her mother and younger sister Maya to Quebec, where she finished high school. In her last year there, Kamala’s experience with sheltering a close friend from abuse inspired her to become a prosecutor.
Kamala was admitted to Howard University, a historically black college in Washington D.C. There, she excelled as she fomented a political career. Cutting her teeth in the art of argumentation, she led the school’s debate team. With an eye to her own development as a public servant, she interned for California Senator Alan Cranston. She graduated with a degree in political science and economics in 1986, then went on to earn a graduate degree from the University of California’s Hastings College of Law in 1989.
Kamala was admitted to the California Bar in 1990, kicking off her career as an attorney. Her first big gig was as deputy district attorney in Alameda County, CA, that same year. She rose in those ranks to succeed in other positions, including with the state Unemployment Appeals board and the California Medical Assistance Commission. Her time doing that work helped her hone her skills as a fighter representing the needs of ordinary Americans, something she carried into the 2020 presidential campaign.
Joining the DA’s Office
In 1998, Kamala became an assistant district attorney in San Francisco. She quickly advanced to head the Career Criminal Division, which focused on everything from sex crimes to homicide and robbery. Taking on some of the toughest cases out there, she made a name for herself as someone who was tough on crime and an advocate against the practice of trying juveniles as adults. Her time as assistant DA put her in the spotlight and in the middle of some very contentious cases.
Winning Her First Race
In 2003, Kamala took on her old boss, Terrance Hallinan, in the race for San Francisco District Attorney and won. This was the first time constituents got a real taste of her feistiness in televised debates that she won, hands down. Despite being known as a tough-on-crime candidate, she also vigorously declared her opposition to the death penalty and even stood against California’s so-called “three strikes” law, except in the most violent of cases. She was so popular in the position, she ran unopposed four years later.
Madame Attorney General
Tell us if this one sounds familiar: In 2010, Kamala Harris made history as the first woman, African American, and Indian American to win the race for California’s attorney general. Yes, the same set of firsts she achieved as vice president! She was sworn in the next year and created quite a record for herself. Fighting for criminal justice reform, LGBT rights, consumer protection, and many other progressive causes, she gained popularity and was reelected in 2014.
Two years into her second term as California’s AG, Kamala entered the race for a Senate seat that was being vacated by the long-serving Barbara Boxer and won. Sworn into office in 2017, Harris jumped in with both feet. Highlights of her tenure in the Senate include taking on the controversial nomination of Bret Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court and the impeachment of President Donald Trump. On top of all that, she ran in the Democratic primaries to be the presidential candidate in 2020. As we all know, she lost to the man who would become her boss.
Once again, Kamala made history when she and Joe Biden won their race for the White House in 2020, with seven million more votes than incumbent President Trump. But don’t expect her to be too far from the Senate. Because of the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans after the last election cycle, Harris is likely to spend a lot of her time in the chamber to ensure tiebreaking votes, as is the duty of the vice president. No matter what she does, keep your eye on this lady; she has a way of making history over and over!