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Kamala Harris Sworn Into History
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=58026"><span class="small">Chelsea Janes and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., The Washington Post</span></a>   
Wednesday, 20 January 2021 13:46

Excerpt: "Kamala D. Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States on Wednesday, stepping into history as the highest-ranking female politician in American history."

Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn-in. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)
Vice President Kamala Harris is sworn-in. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty)

Kamala Harris Sworn Into History

By Chelsea Janes and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., The Washington Post

21 January 21


amala D. Harris was sworn in as vice president of the United States on Wednesday, stepping into history as the highest-ranking female politician in American history.

As the world watched and worried and hoped, Harris raised her right hand, face steeled as it was through so many hearings and debates that it became her signature stare.

Then, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor read “so help me God,” the stoicism broke.

“So help me God,” Harris repeated, overcome with a smile as her sister, Maya, broke into tears behind her. She hugged her husband. She found Joe Biden waiting, shaking his fists in triumph. Then she walked back to her seat and into history.

The moment reflected a historic rise at a time of historic crises. Harris, the 56-year-old daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, became the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent to hold an office that has been previously occupied solely by White men. She was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the nation’s highest court, a calculated choice from a former senator from California who has highlighted women of color during her career.

The weight of the history Harris made — and what it took for her to make it — were ever-present Wednesday.

From the moment Harris stepped out of her motorcade, she and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were escorted by Eugene Goodman, the Black Capitol police officer who held off a mostly White mob of rioters during the attempted siege of that complex last week. Goodman also escorted her to the balcony where she took the oath.

She stepped out to a gathered crowd that included allies such as Hillary Clinton, who nearly broke the glass ceiling for women in the nation’s highest offices four years sooner, and recent adversaries, including Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the subject of one of her most-talked-about interrogations on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As she walked into the ceremony, she stooped to kiss her niece. She bumped fists with Barack Obama, the first Black man to serve as president. She shared a few words with Mike Pence, her predecessor, who called Harris to congratulate her earlier this week, even as President Donald Trump refused to do so.

She passed women wearing pearls like her, including Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who wore pearls that used to belong to late congresswoman Shirley Chisholm — a nod to the first Black woman to run for president. When Harris ran for president last year, she chose her logo and colors based on the ones Chisholm used a half-century ago.

Harris, clad in an outfit of purple by Black designer Christopher John Rogers, took the oath of office with her hand on two Bibles. One belonged to civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice and a fellow Howard University graduate whom Harris, a former prosecutor, saw as a hero. The second belonged to Regina Shelton, a neighbor who was a second mother to Harris and her younger sister, Maya. Harris took her Senate oath on Shelton’s Bible in January 2017. Joe Biden administered that oath.

Earlier in the day, Harris and Emhoff joined the Bidens, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others at St. Matthew of the Apostle church for a prayer service. They joined the Bidens in a motorcade to the Capitol, where Harris was sworn in shortly before the new president.

Harris’s term was historic from the moment she finished the oath, but she has the potential to be one of the most consequential vice presidents in American history. Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats in the U.S. Senate and, as the president of the Senate, Harris holds the tie-breaking vote. The Democratic lean means the Biden-Harris administration has a clearer path to enacting legislative priorities, including an expansion of federal health-care subsidies, a comprehensive immigration overhaul and a tax increase on the wealthy.

One of Harris’s first official acts will be to swear in three new Democratic senators: Alex Padilla, her replacement as senator from California and the first Latino to hold the position; and new Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, whose victories in a pair of runoffs knotted the chamber. At 33, Ossoff will be the youngest senator sworn in since Biden, who was 30 when he first took office in 1973.

Harris was one of more than two dozen Democrats who had vied to unseat President Donald Trump. She began the Democratic primary as an on-paper favorite, drawing one of its biggest crowds — more than 20,000 people — to her campaign launch in front of City Hall in Oakland, Calif.

But her campaign foundered, largely because of her inability to dislodge Biden’s base of support. By December 2019, she was out of money and exited the race before a single ballot was cast.

Harris, who was selected to the Senate the same day Trump became president, did not have the progressive track record to pry away loyalists to Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and she did not inspire the newcomer zing of Pete Buttigieg, then-mayor of South Bend., Ind..

Instead, from the most diverse slate of candidates in history, Democrats searching for practicality and normalcy selected Biden — believing he had the best chance of defeating Trump in the general election.

At 78, Biden is the oldest president in the nation’s history, which thrusts additional importance on the person who would serve in his stead. Biden has said he considers himself a “transition candidate,” a label he cemented when he vowed to pick a woman as his running mate and interviewed more than a dozen.

But as the nation simmered with racial strife following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, liberal activists and congressional leaders pressured Biden to select a Black woman.

Harris has known Biden for years, and was close with his late son Beau, who was the attorney general for the state of Delaware when Harris held the same post in California.

Despite the connection, Harris launched an attack on Biden at the first Democratic debate over his nostalgic talk about working with two segregationists senators.

“It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris said during the debate. She also took Biden to task for his opposition to mandatory busing.

Biden’s wife, Jill, described that moment as being “like a punch to the gut,” and it added drama to Biden’s months-long search for a running mate.

But Biden and Harris publicly made up, and aides to both say they have worked in tandem throughout the transition. Both say she will be a key partner in his administration, much as Biden was to President Barack Obama. She often spoke alongside Biden at transition events, a constant presence by design in a way past vice presidents have not been.

Tuesday night, it was Harris who offered remarks to the nation as part of a brief memorial service for those lost to covid-19. Her family — some White, some Black, stepchildren and beloved grandnieces — gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial ahead of time, snapping selfies that embodied the kind of modern American experience Harris has come to represent.

As Harris stood in St. Matthew of the Apostle on Wednesday morning, surrounded by high-profile politicians drenched in Washington tradition, her hometown basketball team — the Golden State Warriors — released a video of a young Black girl skipping through the streets of Oakland in Converses, the shoes Harris wore regularly on the campaign trail. That girl wore a Warriors jersey with No. 49, a symbol of the possibilities children see in Harris that they never saw before. Harris, the 49th vice president, will display a No. 49 Warriors jersey in her office. The back reads Madam Vice President — “MVP.”

The schedule for her first day as vice president is a busy one, and includes a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the swearing in of three new senators, and remarks at a televised inauguration celebration later in the day — the first time Americans will hear a woman address them as vice president. your social media marketing partner