Rarely are first times worthy of note when it comes to minted coins.
But the U.S. Mint has added NASA Astronaut Sally Ride to its “American Women Quarters” program, marking the first commemoration of a female astronaut on a U.S. quarter, according to a post on the Mint’s website.
The coin will appear in 2022, but Sally Ride might have felt some discomfort at the idea of such public exposure, having cherished her private life. Although, whether she would prefer not to say so, it’s hard to say.
NASA Astronaut Sally Ride encouraged women to try STEM fields
Sally Ride’s visage will appear on an official U.S. quarter in 2022, based on an illustration inspired by a quote from the astronaut which reads: “But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.” It’s not a mindblowing surprise that most coins in history have depicted male faces, since it was only half a century ago that women gained the right to work alongside men, and still longer until morality adjusted to the change, and learned to value women as equal colleagues with just as much potential to contribute to society. But, as the first female astronaut, Sally Ride didn’t have an easy time. Some reporters even asked her unconscionably suggestive questions, like: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
Succeeding despite the odds, Ride became the first female U.S. citizen to make it to space on June 18, 1983, flying above the atmosphere in the Space Shuttle Challenger. While she was scheduled to fly again in 1986, the disastrous destruction of the same space shuttle saw her investigating the tragic explosion with the federal government. After she parted ways with NASA, Ride remained a prominent voice in the support of gender equality within the U.S. space program, founding Sally Ride Science in the early 2000s to encourage more young women to consider STEM fields, and wrote six children’s books about empirical science before she died, in 2012.
Click here to read the full article on Interesting Engineering.
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg mocked world leaders — including US President Joe Biden and the UK’s Boris Johnson — at a youth climate summit in Milan on Tuesday, saying the last 30 years of climate action had amounted to “blah, blah, blah.”
Thunberg imitated the leaders by repeating their commonly used expressions on the climate crisis, shooting them down as empty words and unfulfilled promises.
“When I say climate change, what do you think of? I think jobs. Green jobs. Green jobs,” she said, referencing Biden’s speeches on the climate crisis.
“We must find a smooth transition towards a low carbon economy. There is no Planet B,” she said, in a reference to a speech given by French President Emmanuel Macron. “There is no Planet Blah. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
And in her jibe at UK Prime Minister Johnson, Thunberg derided the leader’s rhetoric around his government’s “green recovery” plans.
“This is not about some expensive, politically correct dream at the bunny hugging or blah, blah, blah. Build back better, blah, blah, blah. Green economy, blah, blah, blah,” Thunberg said.
“Net zero, blah, blah, blah. Climate neutral, blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders — words, words that sound great but so far, has led to no action or hopes and dreams. Empty words and promises.”
Thunberg was speaking at the Youth4Climate forum, an event held two days before dozens of ministers convene in Milan for a final high-level meeting before the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November. COP26 President Alok Sharma was at the youth event and will be chairing the ministers’ meeting.
The youth attendees will come up with a list of recommendations for ministers to consider later this week. Ministers are expected to try and align their positions on issues on the Glasgow agenda, including putting an end date on the use of coal and who should pay what to assist the Global South in its transition to low-carbon economies.
An activist from Uganda, Vanessa Nakate, said that the developing world was still waiting on the rich world to make good on its climate finance promises.
Leaders from developed nations agreed a decade ago to transfer money to developing countries to help them reduce their carbon emissions but also to adapt to the climate crisis. That promise was reaffirmed in 2015 in Paris, where world leaders again agreed to transfer $100 billion a year to the Global South 2020, at least half of which was to go to adaptation. That deadline was missed last year.
“There is far too little evidence of the $100 billion per year that was promised to help climate vulnerable countries to meet this challenge. But those funds were promised to arrive by 2020 and we are still waiting,” Nakate said, pointing out that Africa pollutes very little but is on the front line of the climate crisis.
When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.
The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.
The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:
To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups
There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:
Set-aside contracts for small businesses:
To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.
There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.
Competitive set-aside contracts:
When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.
Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.
Sole-source set-aside contracts:
Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.
In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.
Contracting Assistance Programs:
The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:
8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.
Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses
SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor
Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.
Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)
Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.
Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.
A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.
If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.
Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg – there are so many male leaders in tech. But what about Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Susan Wojcicki, Sheryl Sandberg and the decades of further women technologists?
Women are making an impact in technology, but the statistics are still shocking. According to the Women and Technology Study conducted for PwC in 2017, only 3 percent of women say a career in technology is their first choice, 78 percent of students can’t name a famous woman working in technology, and only 5 percent of jobs in the technology industry are held by women.
Luckily, times are changing, and more women are being encouraged to join the ranks of innovators and creators driving remarkable technological innovations for our world.
Tech is a very cool industry for women to work
So why should women choose to work in technology?
Technology is a modern industry with a modern workplace culture. Think of all the perks at tech giant Google—free food, on-site massage therapists, dedicated volunteering time, and dog-friendly offices. But it’s not just about the physical benefits.
Emma Yang, CEO and founder of the mobile app Timeless
A career in technology means working with diverse people who are some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the world.
Working in the technology sector can mean working on some totally out-of-this-world, near-on futuristic projects that can help millions of people globally. Being part of something bigger and making a long-lasting and tangible difference to society is very appealing.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons why the technology sector can be so luring is its rapid rate of growth. With every new and exciting development comes many opportunities for women to get involved.
The technology sector is always hiring, and here are some of the key types of projects you could work on:
Ever dreamed of a robot cooking you dinner? Time to wake up into this reality: robots are becoming more intelligent, more dexterous, and more adaptable to their environment.
Dactyl is a robot created by OpenAI – non-profit brainchild of tech leader Elon Musk – who can hold things with its fingers and learn to do tasks beyond its programming.
Watching a series on the computer can even see the effort of reaching for the mouse to click the next episode an aspect of the past.
Development of a brain-computer interface is underway – a very futuristic but very possible technological development where thoughts can control the computer.
Another Elon Musk startup, Neuralink, has already developed a system where a monkey has successfully controlled a computer with its brain. The company has been considering rolling out the system for humans to help with brain and spinal cord injuries.
Internet has become a staple part of many people’s lives, which means we’re expecting more and more from it. One frustration is slow internet, but innovators are solving that problem too with 5G. High-speed internet is great for individuals, and for the economy also via boosting businesses, increasing working efficiency, and making communication easier and more reliable – particularly for remote workers.
So, it’s not quite the sci-fi utopia of flying cars, but technology companies are developing driverless cars powered by artificial intelligence.
It’s a mammoth task to take on – mimicking complex human actions and reactions, scaling the product to make it affordable to the mass-market – but many technology companies are determined to bring this to streets of the future.
Plant-based, meat-free food
Technology is often mainly associated with computers, devices and further hardware but technological progress can also be seen in other types of products – and can even impact of people’s lives, such as their diets. Thankfully, many people have become far more environmentally conscious and the technology industry is responding to this via a wide range of plant-based, meat-free options that are lab-grown or even 3D printed.
What’s more, plant-based meat-free alternatives can be very nutritionally optimized and personalized through technology so as to suit the health needs of individuals, and products can be mass-produced without a huge environmental impact – a big step towards alleviating the food crisis worldwide. Better for health, and better for the planet.
Personalized cancer vaccines
As well as food, technology can also revolutionize health. One incredible leap forward for human progress is custom cancer vaccines where treatment triggers someone’s immune system to find and destroy the cancer itself.
This is truly what working in technology is all about – developing new innovations that can save lives and change the world for the better.
Two women who are leading the way in creating these sorts of pioneering technological innovations are:
Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of Blendoor – a mobile job matching app that uses a blind recruiting strategy to overcome unconscious bias and diversify recruiting in tech companies. A 13-year career with technology companies like Lockheed, Microsoft, and TripAdvisor has familiarized Lampkin with the difficulties of ‘looking different.’ With the help of technology and data, her aim is to prove that diversifying the tech talent pipeline will add, rather than remove, value to the industry.
And Emma Yang, CEO and founder of Timeless, a mobile app that helps Alzheimer’s patients stay engaged and connected to loved ones. She is a keen coder and an advocate for women in STEM. Through her work, she wants to encourage further young women like her to pursue careers in the technology industry and use their talents to make the world a better place.
Making space for women in STEM
With such rising demand for new technology, there is a significant need for women to be better supported in pursuing a career in STEM. Educators, businesses and individual mindsets must be broadened if barriers are going to be broken, stereotypes challenged and obstacles overcome to regarding women’s participation in and contribution to innovation.
We need more coding clubs in schools. We need more female role models and mentors. We need to overcome gender bias in the workplace. Companies also need to provide a more flexible work environment for women, such as programs to support women returners or better maternity leave policies.
Afternoon tea with the Americans. Queen Elizabeth II met with President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Sunday, June 13, at Windsor Castle in England. The Bidens arrived at the royal residence and reviewed the Guard of Honor, formed of the Queen’s Company First Battalion Grenadier Guards, which gave a royal salute. The queen, 95, POTUS, 78, and FLOTUS, 70, posed for photos at the same canopy from which the queen watched the Trooping the Colour on Saturday, June 12. After listening to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the trio went inside. The queen introduced the former vice president and his wife to her lady-in-waiting, Dame Annabel Whitehead, and they drank tea in the castle’s Oak Room. The sit-down lasted about 10 minutes longer than it was supposed to, the BBC reports.
“I don’t think she’d be insulted but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” the president told reporters before leaving London. “She’s extremely gracious, that’s not surprising, but we had a great talk.”
The 46th President of the United States is the 13th U.S. president to meet with the queen. Though she previously met Biden before his presidency when he was a senator in 1982, this was his first time meeting with the monarch since taking over the Oval Office.
The Bidens had briefly interacted with the queen and other members of the royal family, including Prince William, Duchess Camilla and Prince Charles, on Friday, June 11, during a reception at the G7 Summit.
The sovereign sat for a photo with many world leaders and joked, “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourselves?”
Duchess Kate and Jill got some one-on-one time as they went to meet children at Connor Downs Academy preschool and participated in a roundtable discussion with early childhood education experts. “It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” the Duchess of Cambridge, 39, told the educator. “I’m very much looking forward to the conversation.”
In a statement shared via Instagram, Will and Kate thanked the first lady. “It was great to host Dr. Jill Biden and experts from the UK and the United States for a discussion on the importance of early childhood on lifelong outcomes, and how we can work together to make a difference,” they said.
The royal couple continued: “The importance of providing support for parents and children alike during early childhood, and the positive impact that this can have across society, is something we share a great passion for.”
Scroll through for more photos from the Bidens’ meetings with the royal family.
Click here to read the full article on US Magazine.
Alyssa Milano, a veteran of TV shows including “Who’s the Boss?,” “Charmed” and “Insatiable,” has her eye on a seat in Congress. “I am confirming that it is possible that I will run for office in 2024,” the actor-activist said Tuesday in a statement to The Times. Milano told the Hill on Tuesday that she was possibly interested in challenging California’s 4th District Rep. Tom McClintock for his House seat, building on a tweet she floated in late May. “I split my time between Truckee, Calif., and Bell Canyon, Calif., and the Republicans have basically had a strong arm there in the 4th District,” Milano told the Hill, saying she would love to potentially flip the red district to blue.
The district has consistently chosen a Republican as its House member since 1992, though Democrats were in charge there for 30 years prior. McClintock, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of California in the 2003 recall, has held his seat since the 2008 election. Milano’s decision wouldn’t happen in time for the 2022 midterms, though. She has a “Who’s the Boss?” reboot in the works, in addition to other commitments, and she couldn’t do that and run for Congress simultaneously. “It’s going to take someone with, I think, name recognition and deep pockets to be able to run against McClintock, and so I’m considering it,” the COVID-19 long-hauler told the Hill. “I’m basically gathering information right now, speaking to different consultants, speaking to the community.”
Milano’s political ambitions build on her history of activism and embrace of liberal and progressive causes, which is mirrored in her “Sorry, Not Sorry” podcast and likely in her upcoming book of the same name. She was an online leader, for example, in the #MeToo movement and has defended abortion rights. On Wednesday she will rally virtually with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss canceling student debt. Milano has worked with UNICEF, PETA and other animal rights groups, and canvassed for various candidates. Leading up to the 2016 election, Milano first threw her support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders before switching to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She endorsed Biden in the 2020 presidential race.
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! News.
Originally posted on Axios by Lachlan Markay, Alayna Treene, Jonathan Swan
Former Olympic decathlete and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner has filed her initial paperwork to run for governor of California and will officially announce her bid later today, her campaign tells Axios.
The big picture: Jenner, a longtime Republican, is seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election, hoping her celebrity status and name recognition can yield an upset in the nation’s most populous state.
But in deep-blue California, she’s decidedly not branding herself as a Trump Republican even as she’s counting on some of the former president’s advisers to drive her strategy.
She’s assembled a team of prominent GOP operatives including Tony Fabrizio, the top pollster on Donald Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns, Ryan Erwin, founder of RedRock Strategies, and Tyler Deaton, president of Allegiance Strategies.
She’s also hired Steven Cheung, a former Trump White House and campaign communications hand who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful 2003 recall campaign. Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale, a personal friend of Jenner’s, has helped her assemble her team but doesn’t plan to take an official title on the campaign.The campaign’s website and WinRed donation page are set to go live today.
Jenner said in a statement that “Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision” and that “for the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people.” The statement decries California’s taxes as “too high” and criticizes an “over-restrictive lockdown” response to the COVID pandemic including on in-person schooling.
“This is Gavin Newsom’s California, where he orders us to stay home but goes out to dinner with his lobbyist friends.”
A campaign adviser tells Axios that Jenner has greater name ID than Newsom and can command the kind of earned media that “will go to every possible demographic you could think of.”
Jenner, a trans woman, “is very socially liberal,” the adviser said. “She’s running as someone that’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”
Don’t forget: Jenner publicly voiced support for Trump until 2018, when he rolled back federal guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. “My hope in him … was misplaced,” she wrote.
“Certainly she has not seen eye-to-eye with [Trump] on a lot of things,” the adviser said. “I think that Caitlyn will talk to anyone, Democrat or Republican. Donald Trump is not going to be the deciding factor for the state of California.”
The big picture: Jenner’s team is convinced that the race is “totally winnable,” but recent polling shows the scale of the challenge.
President Biden will nominate Christine Wormuth to be the next secretary of the Army, the White House announced Monday. She would be the first woman to serve in that role if confirmed by the Senate.
Wormuth has an extensive background in foreign policy and national security, and notably served as undersecretary of defense for policy — the third most senior civilian position in the Department of Defense — during the Obama administration.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described her in a statement as a “true patriot with a dedicated career in service to America and our nation’s security.”
“As the former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Christine advanced the department’s counter-ISIS campaign and the rebalance to Asia, and her deep expertise will be critical in addressing and deterring today’s global threats, including the pacing challenge from China and nation-state threats emanating from Russia, Iran, and North Korea,” Austin said. “I have no doubt that, if confirmed, she will lead our soldiers and represent their families with honor and integrity as the Secretary of the Army.”
Wormuth joined the Obama administration in 2009 as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and civil support, and also served as the senior director for defense policy on the National Security Council.
Currently, she is the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank, and teaches as an adjunct professor in Georgetown University’s graduate program in security studies.
Wormuth led the Biden-Harris Defense Agency Review team during the presidential transition in January, the White House noted, and is a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
She also serves on the honorary advisory board of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, a coalition established in 2019 to “promote concrete solutions to the national security gender gap.”
Wormuth’s nomination is being cheered by many as a milestone in the notoriously male-dominated field.
The WITI Summit, June 22-24 in a VIRTUAL form, is the premier global event for women in technology. Executives, entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders from around the world convene online to build and expand strong connections in a welcoming environment and to foster women’s success in all technology related fields and organizations. 3,000+ attendees from 6 continents.
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The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services. The vote is a history-making one: Levine is the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate.
The vote was 52-48 in favor of her confirmation.
Levine was previously Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, where she led the commonwealth’s COVID-19 response.
Before the vote, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., urged her colleagues to support Levine’s nomination, calling her a “trusted voice” for Pennsylvanians on matters, including opioid prescribing guidelines, health equity and LGBTQ health care.
Murray also noted the significance of the vote.
“I’ve always said the people in our government should reflect the people it serves, and today we will take a new historic step towards making that a reality. I’m proud to vote for Dr. Levine and incredibly proud of the progress this confirmation will represent, for our country and for transgender people all across it who are watching today,” she said.
Levine began her medical career as a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and she is a professor at the Penn State College of Medicine, where she teaches on topics such as adolescent medicine, eating disorders and transgender medicine. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine.
In a statement in January about the nomination, President Biden said Levine “will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their ZIP code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond.”
Last month’s confirmation hearing for Levine included combative questioning by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in which the lawmaker demanded to know if Levine believes minors are capable of making “such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex,” comparing sex reassignment procedures to “genital mutilation.”
Levine replied, “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed and, if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”
Continue to NPR to read the full article
Photo by CAROLINE BREHMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
History was made and made again during the 2020 election. From the most votes cast in a presidential election in U.S. history to a wave of new, young, novice, minority, and LGBTQIA+ representatives in Congress, the litany of firsts made an immediate impact, widening representation among our elected leaders and laying out a new landscape of inclusion and diversity.
It was the election of Kamala Devi Harris, however, to the second-highest office in the country –
making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of American politics – that tipped the scale and underscored its historic relevance.
Though undeniably her highest accomplishment, Harris’ newest title, Madam Vice President, is just the latest in an enduring, ceiling-shattering career of firsts.
This trailblazer is no stranger to making history.
Paving the Way
Long before her ascension to the vice-presidency, Harris’ resume of firsts had ensured her place in the history books several times over.
First African-American, first South Asian-American, and first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco. First African-American, first South Asian-American, and first woman attorney general of California. First Indian-American woman and second Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Focused, determined, and passionate, her accomplishments can be traced back in part to her upbringing, her education, and a piece of life-shaping advice offered by her mother: “Don’t sit around and complain about things, Kamala. Do something.”
Armed with Education
Harris’ monumental career is rooted in an educational foundation that provided a unique perspective and experience to her journey. As the daughter of academically inclined parents – both earned doctorates in their respective fields – the expectation was to excel.
She earned a degree in political science and economics from the illustrious Howard University (chosen largely due to the fact that her hero, trailblazing lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, also attended). Immersed in and influenced by the unmatched cultural atmosphere offered by a historically Black college, she credits the experience as formative to her personal evolution.
“I became an adult there,” the former senator shared in a Washington Post interview. “Howard very directly influenced and reinforced – equally important – my sense of being and meaning and reasons for being.”
Surrounded by a common-place sense of political awareness and activism, Harris’ credence in the value of racial representation in government and corporate institutions was stoked during her tenure, alongside a keen sense of argumentation and an overarching belief that the best way to change a system is from the inside out. Internships with Senator Alan Cranston of California and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as jobs at the National Archives and the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, provided a pathway to do so.
By the time she graduated in 1986, she had made her mark: chairing the economics society, leading the debate team, participating in campus activism, and joining Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (the first African-American Greek-lettered sorority).
Her postgraduate journey led her to the University of California Hastings College of Law, where she attended as part of the Legal Education Opportunity Program and served as president of the Black Law Students Association before graduating in 1989 and being admitted to the California Bar the next year.
If Harris’ varied collegiate experience was the catalyst for her career of service, then her family was the incubator. Years before she ever pursued higher education, she was surrounded and influenced by a familial tradition of public service.
“Growing up, there was no question in my family that you must serve,” she said during a lecture at Spelman University in 2018. “There was simply no question.”
Her maternal grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, was a high-ranking government official who fought for Indian independence; her grandmother, Rajam, was an activist who traveled the countryside teaching impoverished women about birth control.
In fact, her decision to enter the legal field was influenced heavily by her grandfather, who she frequently overheard discussing politics, corruption, and justice while visiting India during her childhood.
“The lessons I learned from my grandfather are a big reason I do what I do today,” she said during an event supporting India’s Independence Day. “Lawyers have a profound ability to be a voice for the vulnerable and the voiceless, and that’s what I wanted to be.”
Raised to Make a Difference
To understand the trajectory of Harris’ life and her journey to the White House, you have to understand where she comes from. The daughter of two immigrants, her upbringing centered and solidified her identity and desire to be engaged and aware of the politics, organizations, and struggles of the Black community – and beyond.
Her father, Donald Harris, an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford, was born in Jamaica’s St. Ann’s Parish and came to the University of California at Berkeley in the early 60s on a scholarship from the British colonial government. Drawn to the civil rights movement, he joined the school’s Afro American Association, a building block of the Black Power movement that would help build the discipline of Black studies, introduce the holiday of Kwanzaa, and establish the Black Panther Party. An astute academic, he viewed the US as a “lively and evolving dynamic of a racially and ethnically complex society,” and was the first Black scholar to receive tenure in Stanford’s economics department.
It was her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a renowned breast cancer research scientist, however, whom Harris credits with being most responsible for shaping her into the woman she has become.
“I’m the daughter of a mother who broke down all kinds of barriers,” she shared last Mother’s Day. “Shyamala was no more than five feet tall, but if you ever met her, you’d think she was seven feet. She had such spirit and tenacity, and I’m thankful every day to have been raised by her.”
The oldest child in a high-achieving Brahmin family from Tamil Nadu, India, Gopalan relocated to the states in 1960 to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at UC Berkeley, receiving her PhD the same year Harris was born. She, too, was drawn to the energy of the civil rights movement, and as a former colonial subject and person of color, found herself wholly accepted into the Afro American Association.
It was against this backdrop of activism and change that she and Donald met, married, and began expanding their family (with Kamala in 1964, followed by sister Maya in 1967).
Harris fondly recalls her early grounding in the movement for equality: the energetic waves of bodies and voices as she attended protests with her parents; hearing Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to mount a national campaign for president, speak in 1971; and being part of the second class to integrate her elementary school.
“My parents would bring me to protests strapped in my stroller, and my mother raised my sister and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching,” she divulged during her first campaign appearance as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee.
“It’s because of them and the folks who also took to the streets to fight for justice that I am where I am. They laid the path for me.”
When the couple divorced in 1971 (Harris was seven), Gopalan settled in Oakland, California, and took on the sole role of raising her daughters, simultaneously balancing a growing research career, protesting and advocating for civil rights, and bringing up her biracial children with an understanding and appreciation of both of their cultural identities – especially their Blackness.
“My mother understood very well that she was raising two Black daughters,” Harris wrote in her 2019 autobiography, The Truths We Hold. “She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as Black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud Black women.”
To that end, Gopalan herself adopted African-American culture, ensuring her daughters attended a Black Baptist church with neighbors and a preschool with prominent photos of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as surrounding them with the supplemental love, guidance, and support of her fellow Afro American Association members.
The culmination of this conscious and nurturing upbringing resulted in Harris’ fully realized and unapologetic acceptance of her multicultural identity. In her words, both her Black and Indian heritages are of equal weight in terms of who she is.
“The point is: I am who I am. I’m good with it,” she told the Washington Post while on the campaign trail. “You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.”
For the People
The impact of Harris’ appointment to the second-highest office in the nation is – much like the former senator herself – multifaceted. Americans who have never seen themselves represented in the country’s absolute highest echelons now have the chance.
It is a responsibility she does not take lightly. Time and again, Harris has proven through her words and actions that she is acutely aware of her ability to engage with and appeal to many American identities, and committed to her duty of ensuring they are seen and heard.
She is a source of pride for the children of immigrants and the Black, Indian, and South Asian communities, expanding the beliefs and perceived potential of how high they can ascend and how much they can influence the American story.
She embodies the fighting spirit of women and girls of all races, backgrounds, creeds and political affiliations, encouraging them to speak up as they make their ways through life.
“What I want women and girls to know is this: You are powerful and your voice matters,” she told Marie Claire. “You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or has had the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone.
We are all in that room with you, applauding you on. Cheering your voice. So you use that voice and be strong.”
She personifies the grit and legacy of Black women like Shirley Chisholm and Carol Moseley, and is reflected in the millions of little girls of color who see their faces in her, challenging them to stand firm in their identities and what they bring to the table.
“There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane,’” she told participants of the 2020 Black Girls Lead conference. “They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you.
Don’t be burdened by their perspectives or judgement, and do not let anyone ever tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.”
She, along with her husband, Doug, and step-children Cole and Ella (who lovingly call her Momala), are a shining example of the beauty of family – no matter how they are constructed. All you need, she posits, is love.
“The thing about blended families is this – if everyone approaches it in the way that there’s plenty of love to share, then it works,” she said about her modern-day brood. “And we have plenty of love to share within our extended family.”
And, perhaps most importantly, she is an enduring reminder that while breaking barriers may be painful, the fight is worth it to ensure that the next generation will have a path. It is the immortal lesson given to her by the most important role model of her life: her mother.
“My mother would look at me and she’d say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last,’” she recalls often. “That’s why breaking those barriers are worth it. As much as anything else, it is also to create that path for those who will come after us.”
Guided by this life motto, Vice President Harris knows one thing for sure – she may be the first woman to hold the office, but she won’t be the last.