Kamala Harris: 'While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last'

·3-min read

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last."

This was Kamala Harris' message in her first speech as vice-president elect of the United States.

Ms Harris made history in more ways than one, being the first female and first woman of African-American and South Asian-American descent to get the job.

Wearing a white trouser suit in tribute to women's suffrage, she spoke of the many women who made her achievement possible, personally and historically.

"To the woman most responsible for my presence here today - my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who is always in our hearts," she said.

"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 have paved the way for this moment tonight."

Ms Harris honoured women who "fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty and justice for all", with special mention to those who fought for voting equality and black women, who are "too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy".

She spoke of the inspiration she hoped to spark for "every little girl watching [who] sees that this is a country of possibilities".

Earlier, Ms Harris started her speech with a tribute to the late Georgia congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader who said democracy was not a state but an act.

"What he meant is America's democracy is not guaranteed," she said. "It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it."

During this election, she said, "the very soul of America was at stake" and the "world was watching".

She thanked American voters for turning out in record numbers and vowed to "strive to be a vice-president like Joe was to President Obama - loyal, honest and prepared, waking up every day thinking of you and your family".

Echoing the president-elect's sentiment of taking office in a country in need of healing, Ms Harris acknowledged "times have been challenging", especially the recent "grief, sorrow and pain, worries and struggles".

"But we have also witnessed your courage, your resilience and the generosity of your spirit," she continued.

"For four years, you marched and organised for equality and justice, for our lives, and for our planet. And then, you voted. And you delivered a clear message. You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth."

Ms Harris paid tribute to her "dear friend" Biden's son Beau, who died after suffering a brain tumour. She said Mr Biden was "a man with a big heart".

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She said: "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."

Now, she said, is when the real, hard and essential work begins.

Her job is "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.

"And the road ahead will not be easy. But America is ready, and so are Joe and I."