Kamala Harris—the first woman, first Black woman, and first South Asian woman elected vice president of the United States—acknowledged her historic victory with a powerful speech after she and Joe Biden became projected to win the 2020 presidential election.
Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, the California senator began her address by honouring the late U.S. representative and civil rights icon John Lewis. She recalled that before his death in July, he urged the American public to understand that "democracy is not a state. It is an act."
"What he meant was that America's democracy is not guaranteed," explained Harris, alluding to the chaotic and false accusations from President Donald Trump about the integrity of the 2020 election. "It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it."
Touching messages of support poured in on social media during the vice president-elect's speech, many chiming in on Harris's poise, delivery, and what this moment will mean for the nation's next generation.
Harris didn't gloss over the historical importance of her election as the next Vice President of the United States while addressing the nation. During her speech, she highlighted the tireless work of Black women and women of colour who continue to demand change within modern-day politics, and how her election comes 100 years after women gained the right to vote. She also honoured her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who she often credits as a significant inspiration and influence in her career and personal life.
"We are so grateful to Joe and Jill for welcoming our family into theirs on this incredible journey and to the woman most responsible for my presence here today, my mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who was always in our hearts," said the California Senator. "When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn't quite imagine this moment, but she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible. And so I'm thinking about her and about the generations of women—Black women—Asian, white, Latina, Native American women—who throughout our nation's history paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the Black women who are often too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy."
"Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination, and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been," continued Harris. "And I stand on their shoulders and what a testament it is to Joe's character, that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exist in our country and select a woman as his vice president. But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last."
Read the vice president-elect's full speech below.
Congressman John Lewis, before his passing, wrote: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.” And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, to guard it and never take it for granted. And protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. There is joy in it and there is progress. Because ‘We The People’ have the power to build a better future. And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake, and the world watching, you ushered in a new day for America.
To our campaign staff and volunteers, this extraordinary team—thank you for bringing more people than ever before into the democratic process and for making this victory possible.
To the poll workers and election officials across our country who have worked tirelessly to make sure every vote is counted—our nation owes you a debt of gratitude as you have protected the integrity of our democracy.
And to the American people who make up our beautiful country—thank you for turning out in record numbers to make your voices heard.
I know times have been challenging, especially the last several months.
The grief, sorrow, and pain. The worries and the struggles. But we’ve also witnessed your courage, your resilience, and the generosity of your spirit. For 4 years, you marched and organized for equality and justice, for our lives, and for our planet. And then, you voted. You delivered a clear message. You chose hope, unity, decency, science, and, yes, truth. You chose Joe Biden as the next President of the United States of America.
Joe is a healer. A uniter. A tested and steady hand. A person whose own experience of loss gives him a sense of purpose that will help us, as a nation, reclaim our own sense of purpose. And a man with a big heart who loves with abandon.
It’s his love for Jill, who will be an incredible First Lady.
It’s his love for Hunter, Ashley, his grandchildren, and the entire Biden family.
And while I first knew Joe as Vice President, I really got to know him as the father who loved Beau, my dear friend, who we remember here today.
To my husband Doug, our children Cole and Ella, my sister Maya, and our whole family—I love you all more than I can express. We are so grateful to Joe and Jill for welcoming our family into theirs on this incredible journey.
And to the woman most responsible for my presence here today—my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts.
When she came here from India at the age of 19, maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment. But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible. So, I’m thinking about her and about the generations of women—Black Women. Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight.
Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often Prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.
All the women who worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century: 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now, in 2020, with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continued the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard.
Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision—to see what can be unburdened by what has been—I stand on their shoulders. And what a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president.
But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last.
Because 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 yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.
And we will applaud you every step of the way.
To the American people:
No matter who you voted for, I will strive to be the Vice President that Joe was to President Obama—loyal, honest, and prepared, waking up every day thinking of you and your families. Because now is when the real work begins.
The hard work. The necessary work. The good work.
The essential work to save lives and beat this pandemic.
To rebuild our economy so it works for working people.
To root out systemic racism in our justice system and society.
To combat the climate crisis.
To unite our country and heal the soul of our nation.
The road ahead will not be easy.
But America is ready. And so are Joe and I.
We have elected a president who represents the best in us.
A leader the world will respect and our children can look up to.
A Commander in Chief who will respect our troops and keep our country safe.
And a President for all Americans.
It is now my great honour to introduce the President-elect of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
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