When Kamala Harris became vice-president elect last weekend, her victory speech thanked the women who paved the way for her success, including her late mum.
Harris' mother, Shyamala Gopalan, passed away from colon cancer in 2009. Gopalan was the daughter of an Indian diplomat who met Harris' father Donald, who is from Jamaica, whilst studying science as an American immigrant at Berkeley.
Gopalan went on to become a prominent breast cancer researcher, while Harris' father is now emeritus professor of economics at Stanford. They separated when Harris was young and she continued to be close to both of them, often seeking out their wisdom.
In an interview from last year, published in today's Times, Harris shared the advice her mother gave her along the way in order to keep her focused.
'In high school, when I was getting distracted by other things, my mother would say, "Don't do anything half-assed",' she said, adding that she lives by that mantra. Her mum would also challenge her whenever she complained, saying: '"Well Kamala what are you going to do about it?"'
Gopalan also shared her experience as 'one of the very few women of colour in science' when Harris decided to run for the Senate, warning of the obstacles she may face as a woman in another male-dominated world: politics.
Harris explained that her mother said: '"Honey, you watch out for what's going to happen, because there are still certain myths about what women can and cannot do, in spite of the fact of what women actually do in life. Two of those myths are that women can do certain things but not necessarily be in charge of your security or money." In spite of the fact that who is the lioness protecting those cubs at all costs? Who is invariably sitting at that kitchen table in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to get those bills paid?'
She also said that her father raised his children to be strong women but stay grounded, telling her and her sister, Maya, to believe 'the sky is the limit [but] memba whe yu cum fram'.
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